Anger at injustice is often undergirded by a sense of sadness that this is not the way God intended the world to be.
There is value in stepping back to ask whether there is a theology that explains the realities of the refugee and the poor and allows Christians to minister to them.

Over the past several years as I have talked with Syrian refugees, I am struck by the fact that most do not wonder why God is allowing the unbearable suffering that they are enduring.

All have lost their homes. Many, if not most, have seen members of their families killed or disappear.

They are living in poverty and near destitution, terrified by their experiences. They seem to clearly understand that their suffering is caused by the war.

Yet amid all of that, whether they are Christian or Muslim, many are seeking a God who will comfort and deliver them.

I find this intriguing, as many in the Western world who go through difficult times invariably ask, “Why is God doing this to me?” or “Why is God allowing this to happen to me?”

I have wondered how much of this difference in understanding suffering has to do with one’s worldview and, for Christians, theology.

The historic creeds, which have defined Christian faith and set the parameters for the church’s doctrines, seem to have a blank spot when they review the key milestones of salvation.

While they articulate the victory of Christ over evil and of a triumphant God, they are silent on what that triumph means.

They also provide little guidance on how we are to live in the “in-between times” when the Kingdom of God has come but is not yet manifested in all its fullness.

In brief, they have missed the importance of the darkness and disillusionment of the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Does this exclusive focus on the victory of Christ set up expectations that his victory protects me from all evil and suffering now in the present?

Is this the reason for challenging God about why he allows suffering in my life when supposedly he has conquered sin, suffering and death?

Our scientific and technological worldview expects instant solutions to every problem we face.

So if Christ has won the battle over evil and suffering and I still suffer, then maybe his victory was not real, or maybe God and the spiritual world are irrelevant to my daily life.

This focus on victory and the sense of triumphalism has little relevance to the Syrian refugee who has lost everything, or the migrant worker who is abused and treated like a slave, or the desperately poor Lebanese whose government ignores him.

The good news that Christ has conquered sin and death and offers forgiveness to them through repentance has little meaning for those who feel that they have been sinned against and experience the full brunt of evil in society.

On that first Good Friday, the disciples had no knowledge that there was going to be an Easter Sunday.

Their teacher, whom they had come to know as the Lord, died on the cross, leaving their dreams and hopes of a better world and the coming of the Kingdom of God shattered.

It was only later that they understood the cross as being the means of redemption and forgiveness of sins. That first Saturday after Jesus’ death was a time of desolation and mourning.

It is only in this context that the unexpected, stunning, astounding and unbelievable experience of the resurrection on Sunday morning can be understood.

A starting place for a theology for the global south and parts of the Arab world is the realization that most of life is lived in the Saturdays of the salvation narrative, when dreams, hopes and much of life have died.

Unlike the disciples on that first Saturday who felt abandoned, God identifies himself in Christ as being with us and says that he will never leave us or forsake us.

This is what the refugees, migrant workers and impoverished understand the good news to be: there is a God who cares. It is only as they experience this that they can begin to dream and hope again.

Unlike the disciples who did not know that there would be an Easter Sunday, we know that there is a future because of the resurrection.

It is only at this point that the Easter Sunday promises of new life and a new beginning come into focus, revealing that one day in the social, economic and political order of society there will be justice and peace—the promised Kingdom of God.

This is not a theology of triumphalism but one of brokenness and deep humility, where out of the smoldering ashes of life God brings a new beginning.

Rupen Das is director of the master of religion in Middle Eastern and North African studies at Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut, Lebanon. A longer version of this column first appeared on the Institute of Middle East Studies blog and is used with permission. You can follow IMES on Twitter @IMESLebanon.

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