Mark D. Roberts

Yesterday I put up some highlights of Scotty Smith’s recent contribution to a Laity Lodge retreat. I mentioned that one of the things he said that struck me was this: “God’s first action in the new creation is to wipe away tears.” As I explained yesterday, I have known Revelation 21:4, the source of Scotty’s insight, for over 40 years. If you had asked me, I could have told you that the first thing God does in the new creation is to wipe away tears. But I had never really given this fact any serious thought until Scotty brought it up. (Photo: Along with Scotty, we were pleased to welcome as musicians Brian Moss and Lisa Pierre. Lisa is singing in the Great Hall.)
Let me share with you some of the implications of God’s wiping away tears as the first act of the new creation. These reflections build upon what Scotty shared with us at Laity Lodge. Perhaps the best way to present my thoughts is by asking and then answering three questions:

1. What does this reveal about life?
2. What does this reveal about how we’re to live in the meanwhile?
3. What does this reveal about God?

1. What does the fact that God will wipe away our tears reveal about life?
Simply put, it reveals that this life includes tears, many, in fact. When the new creation comes, there will be tears that need to be wiped away. There will be sadness that lingers. Another line from Revelation 21:3 promises that “mourning and crying and pain will be no more.” By implication, this life is full of mourning and crying and pain.
What I’m saying here might seem so obvious that it doesn’t need to be mentioned. Of course life in this world is marked by tears. Of course there is suffering and pain. Of course. Yet many religions and philosophies deny the reality of suffering. Even Christians, who should be the first to acknowledge the tears of this life, can get so wrapped up in the genuine joy of knowing God that they minimize or deny the truth of suffering. This is a giant theological mistake.
Now, of course this life includes more than just tears. The residual goodness of God’s creation remains, filling our lives with earthly joys as well as sorrows. Moreover, the presence of God in our lives offers peace and comfort today, as well as hope for the future. Our experience in this world is clearly a mixed bag of tears and laughter. As we read in Ecclesiastes: “[There is] time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (3:4).
Christians understand the tear-stained reality of this life to be other than God how God intended it. We believe that the perfection of creation was marred by human sin, leading to suffering, pain, and buckets of tears. We also believe that because of what God has done in Christ, there will be a time when God will wipe away our tears and then they shall be no more. But, in the meanwhile, we unashamedly recognize the fact of human suffering and the accompanying tears.
In tomorrow’s post I’ll suggest how we might live in this meanwhile, how we might respond to the reality of suffering and tears in our world.

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