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Explore the Concept of Human Suffering as Outlined in Luke's Gospel and Discuss It Relevance Today

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The term suffering can be defined as any unwanted condition and the corresponding negative emotion. It is usually associated with pain and unhappiness, but any condition can be described as suffering. Christians suffer throughout the world everyday and it is not through their lack of faith. Christians under Nero were persecuted for their faith in God, through this suffering God promised them a place in his kingdom. God also promises us a place in his kingdom, even though throughout our lives we will face the good times and the bad, God is always with us. Others believe that since God is a 'good God' why does all this suffering exist? We don't know the answer to this but perhaps some people become better people through suffering.

There are many examples of suffering in today's society. Suffering can be broken down into: natural suffering, over which humans are powerless or can do little to help such as tsunamis or volcanoes. Physical suffering is when a person is injured or suffers from an illness etc. Spiritual suffering is when the person does not have faith in God or those around them.

Throughout Luke's Gospel we notice his emphasis on suffering. Scholars have concluded that Luke was so sympathetic towards sufferers' because he was a physician. There are many examples when Luke dwells on people's suffering. In the miracle of the blind man we are told how his faith makes him well. The blind man in this story in Luke's Gospel cannot see but he can tell that Jesus is someone great and he addressed him "Jesus, son of David have mercy on me". The people in the crowd began to ignore the man. This used to be the situation in society when blind people were seen as having nothing to offer, so they were also ignored.

Today Christians should treat these people with respect. We should not see their disability but 'see' the person themselves. In the past blind people were not given the same rights as everyone else. However, all that has changed. There are a lot of organisations who make people aware of how valuable blind people are. Society has 'matured' towards blind people, they have realised they can no longer discriminate against anyone just because they cannot see.

Blind people face obstacles in their everyday life. They will never have total independence, but will always need help; they may need a guide dog and will also have to depend on other people to help them get from place to place as they would not be able to drive. They would also have to rely on their other senses more as, they are unable to see possible dangers. They are given the chance to read through the use of Braille and people are aware of the needs of blind people who can be given jobs etc and live fulfilling lives. As Raymond Banks states 'the recovery of the man's sight points to Jesus' mission as the spirit-anointed bringer of God's kingdom and the healing is an example of God's salvation'.

In the time of Jesus there was a disease known as leprosy. Anyone who had leprosy was treated as an outcast. No one wanted to know a leper, not even their own families, for the disease was contagious. They had to carry a bell and live outside villages; they were not allowed to make contact with anyone, as they would make them 'unclean'. Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) could be compared to how leprosy victims were treated. When AIDS was first diagnosed people were isolated and treated as outcasts because people were afraid of getting the disease. Nowadays people with AIDS are treated medically and not as 'outcasts'. There is medication available to prolong lives, but as yet there is no cure. People who suffer in this way live in fear of dying and of rejection by people when they find out. Denis Mc Bride believes that through Jesus' forgiveness in his healing miracles, "there is evidence of his concern to heal the whole man, to offer spiritual healing as well as physical healing." This is how the victims of AIDS should be treated today. They are people who t need be treated with love and accepted into society as Jesus would accept them.

The story of the man with dropsy is an example of physical suffering. In the time of Jesus people believed that you only became sick through sinning against God or breaking the law, so they had no sympathy for the sick. The religious leaders in particular would not associate with them for fear they'd become unclean. However, in today's society people are keen to help those suffering from any type of illness and special attention is given to people with AIDS. Denis Mc Bride points out that, 'the Pharisees believed that the man's disease would have been a powerful argument in favour of the school which argued that suffering resulted from sinfulness.' This is untrue as people can be born with diseases even though they have not sinned. Today people know that illness is not the result of sinning against God.

Death is a form of suffering everyone is going to have to experience at some stage in their lives whether it is a loved one's death or their own. It is a situation even if we know it is coming; we can never seem to be prepared for it. People with a terminal illness suffer themselves but also their family go through the pain of watching them die and they know that after they are gone their family will be grieving. Death is a suffering that is always going to exist and people have to try and prepare for it. Jesus knew that his death was near and therefore his ministry and the message that his ministry brought was one of urgency. Jesus suffered on the cross, he was an innocent man but his death saved us from our sins and fulfilled Old Testament prophecies. Jesus' mother also suffered as she had to watch her only son die on the cross. Onlookers left Jesus' crucifixion and death saddened and Denis Mc bride believes, 'this experience might be the preparation of the heart for the later preaching which converted so many'.

Racism existed at the time of Jesus and was very common in the case of the Jewish leader who despised the Samaritans and which is shown in the Good Samaritan. However, people in Jesus' time would have seen it as their religion to treat these people as they had been taught, but Jesus saw past religion and the law, he saw the person. We as Christians today should react how Jesus did, we should see the person not the colour of their skin or their religion. In today's society people are more aware that racial abuse is uncalled for and less people tolerate it. In the story of the Good Samaritan, it is the "outcast" who helps the man lying on the road side not the man's own people.



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