Do you realize that it’s possible to end nearly all suffering in the world within a single generation? Possible, but not likely. If you agree that it is technically possible, how do you imagine such transformation would take place?
I’m willing to bet that your solutions to world suffering are external just as those who in proximity to hear the Sermon on the Mount. Like them, you probably feel that the solution to starving is access to food, or that the sick are given cures, or the “have-nots” become “haves” in some way, or the sad are made happy. This is our natural binary way of seeing, its how we all learned that suffering is something to avoid.
As a society, we must ultimately look critically at the distribution of power, wealth and resources and how that relates to human suffering. These are certainly bigger causes. That’s where our ideologies splinter off into political factions and ultimately war. It’s too easy to insist on equal distribution of resources, that solution only means we haven’t really understood suffering.
Some people are more clever, smarter, better at planning, more ingenious than others. Whether in our modern cities or back in rural ancient Israel, such people will thrive and become more independent and powerful. The more simple among us can learn but will mostly become dependent upon those who have greater capacities. If we were merely animals, then survival of the fittest could resolve the suffering of the weak and powerless. However humanity has a consciousness that elevates it beyond the beast and the solution to suffering is beyond leaving it to nature as our cruel mother.
Suffering is not solved by governments. Governments only have the resources that they take from productive citizens. When the state re-alocates resources, it creates dependents which potentiates the suffering of the most vulnerable citizens as the more capable among the low productive capture more of the resource. Not to mention that those with means suffer the plunder of the government for the sake of all citizens. Some taxation is fair and required in a society, but it should be equally shared among all citizens and corporations in equal proportions.
Scientific advances are amazing but cannot keep up with suffering world. While these can be nobel and worth-while pursuits, their underlying presupposition is that suffering is solved from the outside in. These advances are easily converted to economic engines which again provide advantages only to those with access and thus creates new envoys of suffering as disparity grows.
Religion’s answer to suffering is an evacuation strategy. Join the winning team and all suffering ends when you die and get to go somewhere else where there is no more suffering. Religion equates suffering with the evil human existence and thus completely unavoidable. While partially true, this misses the richness and beauty that emerges from a humanity that is transformed by suffering. It uses suffering to gain converts that will jump in the the life boat. Certainly not the intention of Jesus’ sermon.
I point out our worlds approach to suffering because there is another solution that whenever it is applied, suffering transforms into something beautiful. It’s strategy is not to over-power suffering nor eliminate it in some militaristic or mystical victory. It’s strategy is to undermine its power by transforming suffering into something else. The way is through, not around.
This approach to suffering is counter-intuitive. It’s packaged in paradox. It is not an outside-in power play, it is an inside-out transformation. What does this have to do with the Sermon on the Mount? Everything. The words of Jesus are not the myopic ideas of humanity, they are not the formation of a new religion, they are the greatest gift to all the world so long as we have ears to hear them. The are the road map to a new world for all people.
The solution to suffering has been hiding in plain sight all along. It’s not a plan, a government program, a scientific endeavor, a coalition, a religion, a movement or even a feel good gesture. All these things have their place, but are not the solution themselves, they are tools to organize the only solution big enough to do the job. These institutions can offer ways that allow suffering to be shared, not avoided. Unfortunately, these institutions become corrupt and self serving, and bring more suffering than they share.
Look around and see if this isn’t true. If this is, then suffering is only the worst thing in the world if we lack the ability to see it as the necessary precondition for the arrival of new world. Only a world with so much suffering could be transformed into so much more. This is the point Jesus is making in his most famous sermon. Yes, you suffer, but that means you are actually blessed. Modern skeptics view the worlds suffering as evidence that there can be no good and loving God. Jesus reveals that the opposite is true (Paradox). Suffering is the evidence that God is intimately involved, and deeply connected to our suffering, so much so that He would be pleased to take suffering on himself.
Suffering doesn’t mean that God has forsaken you, suffering means that you are blessed to share in the life of God, which also suffered. It’s all revealed in our pain, thus the default mode of pain avoidance is what causes us to miss God in the world. The moment we forgive reality for being what it is; the moment we see our oppressor or the dejected as ourself; that is the moment of liberation and new life. That is the path out of suffering.
The solution to the worlds suffering is to transform it from the inside out, not the outside in. The solution requires our participation, it requires our faith in something beyond what our eyes see. We are to first test it in our own suffering so we can reveal the way to those who suffer around us. If you find yourself in a place of personal suffering, take heart, you are experiencing the love of God, the Christ experience, in and as your pain. If you see suffering, join it even in a small way and you will reduce its affects on others.
Now we understand the beatitudes. Don’t miss out on your suffering, it’s what it means to be blessed. This can transform your life and the world around you.