“Don’t worry about the wounds. When I go up there which is my intention, the big judge will say to me ‘Where are your wounds?’ And if I say I haven’t any, he will say ‘Was there nothing to fight for?’” (from Alan Paton, Ah But Your Land is Beautiful quoted in Lucy Winkett Our Sound is Our Wound p143)
These words struck me. It changes the way the way I look at wounds. The language of wounds has become a common way to speak of our psychological suffering. We are wounded by life. Our vulnerable selves have been subjected to inappropriate actions by others leaving us confused and hurting. It is often the language of victims.
But the quote suggests not the wound of a victim, but of a person engaged in a battle worth fighting. The image is quite different. When I played sports, we would occasionally say that a person “took one for the team.” The person sacrificed himself for the sake of the success of the team. While we never wanted injury, a few bruises were badges of play. This is a language of engagement in a project worth giving oneself to.
“Was there nothing to fight for?” demands an answer. We follow one who died to give us life. We follow one whose love drove him to the cross. He bore the wounds of loving and forgiving. He pursued the “kingdom of righteousness, joy and peace” - all terms that are much more than psychological states. He fulfilled the words of the prophet Isaiah:
When Thomas wonders whether Jesus is risen from the dead, Jesus shows him the wounds of the cross. Jesus knew what was worth fighting for.
Elders are followers of Jesus. None of us starts this calling thinking “I will be wounded.” But we are called to engage in a ministry of leading the congregation in our joint mission for God. It is a mission of love. It pursues what is just and right and pleasing to God. Again and again in the history of God’s people, those who served the kingdom suffered consequences. Not because they sought the wounds, but because there was something worth fighting for. They were the wounds of love.
The question “was there nothing to fight for?” focuses our minds. How would you answer the question? What wounds are you willing to suffer as part of your call? After all, Jesus did say “pick up your cross and follow me.”