We live in a world of constant interaction with others. Our lives are lived in such a way that we desire others to come to an understanding of where we are, as we wish to step into where they are. There is a dynamic that springs forth when one desires relationship with another, and out of that desire flows the aspect of love. God, since the dawn of creation, has loved with an intense desire to have relationship with His creation, demonstrating continuously this love for them.

We – as creation – are both the recipients of that desired relationship, and also have a choice to reciprocate that same relationship.

When an acquaintance or colleague pushes away any attempts you may make towards establishing a close relationship, there is a sense of rejection and out-casting that takes effect. It is in these human emotions we find aspects of hurt and pain, and in turn a desire to pull away from those intense, internal feelings. As a divine example of this, Jürgen Moltmann, in his book The Crucified God, speaks on the suffering of Christ in relationship with humanity.

“When God becomes man in Jesus of Nazareth, he not only enters into the finitude of man, but in his death on the cross also enters into the situation of man’s godforsakenness… He humbles himself and takes upon himself the eternal death of the godless and the godforsaken, so that all the godless and the godforsaken can experience communion with him.”[1]

We as the godforsaken are able to have relationship with God because of his chosen sacrifice; communion is had because he chooses to enter our world and demonstrate his agape (unconditional) love.

God made a sacrificial decision for the sake of holistic relationship with humanity. The incarnational being of Christ demonstrates to us our importance through what Moltmann states as God’s “eternal death.” God is our close friend continually seeking relationship with us (His creation), even though, through our sinful human nature, we continually incur upon him continued degrees of suffering. Yet, amidst it all, His outpouring of love remains; there is hope and freedom in suffering.

How does this speak to us?

Every individual is a contributor to what is called relational theology in that God has given humanity the choice to either be in relationship with God and others, or to forsake that option. Whether one views oneself inside or outside the realm of God’s love, there is an undying attempt for relationship found within the folds of this existence. In fact, Paul notes in Galatians 2:20a that he has been crucified with Christ. This is part of the life of a Christian, to identify with Christ in his suffering. We, as Christ followers, engage with Christ through His suffering for us.

How then should we respond?

Suffering is a tangible experience that every human being experiences as some point in life. We can identify with pain – physical and emotional – and through that identification we come to grow with each other. The sufferings in our world should have a compounded impact on our hearts and minds. It is that observance and identification that should draw us towards taking action in areas such a worldwide social injustices.

As we expand in our relationships, experiences, and interactions with others, we must come to grips with the intertwined reality of God’s demonstrated love for us, our love for God, and our love for others. As we experience the sufferings of others, we grow together as a community. Just as He suffers with us, we suffer with one another. Through our suffering for and with each other, authentic community is born. It is in the flux of life we live in a relational world with a relational God.

[1] Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology (Minneapolis, MN: HarperCollins Publishers, 1993), 276.