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Elyse Sandberg & Paige Finkemeier

BITH 315-- Fall 2016

Theological Analysis of McGills Suffering
Jesus, God incarnate, reveals the character of God through his life, death, and

resurrection. Jesus, in his action towards the world and trinitarian relationship within the

Godhead, epitomize the true love and true power that God is. Through Jesus, we know the

following to be true about God: God is the giver of life; God is a god of love and this love is

inherently self-giving; and God exercises his power through service, not domination.

In Suffering, McGill explains that through Jesus life, death, and resurrection we can

know that God is the giver of life (24). God not only has the power to give and sustain life, but

God exercises this power as a gift to his creatures. Jesus lowered himself to humanity, drawing

near, although He is God. He then lived a life of service, to the extent of death on a cross. His

resurrection was not just to show his own power over death, but to grant eternal life for all

humans who believe. The purpose in this was not of self-glorification nor preservation, but Jesus

depicts Gods desire and action of giving life to his people. Jesus explains that he is the truth and

the life, that no one gets to the father except through him (John 14:6). Jesus as the giver of life

through his victory and his gifting of life to his creatures shows us that God is a giving being, he

is the giver of life itself. Through Jesus we know that God desires life for his people, and in his

self-giving nature, he grants life to all who believe.

McGill shares that the essential quality of Gods divinity is love (75) and this love is

characterized by giving of Himself (59), illuminating Gods self-giving nature. Gods love is

exhibited in Jesus deity within the trinity as well as his salvific work towards the world. This

has been eternally demonstrated in the relationship between the Father and the Son. McGill

shares that the Father has given all things to his Son, including the honor and reverence due to

him as God(75), and the Son reciprocates the Fathers love as he yields all glory back to the

father(75). Within the Trinity itself, God proves his self-expending love by the giving of the

father and Jesus surrender of the power and honor back to God. God is not self-seeking, instead

he is love, love of self-denial and expenditure. Beyond Gods internal demonstration of self-

giving love, his love is demonstrated for his creation in Jesus own life and sacrifice. McGill

directs readers to Jesus expression of love as emmanuel, God with us. His walking the second

mile, his giving all that he had to feed the poor, his laying down his life for his friends

demonstrate actions not just of his human nature, but actions of his divinity (59). Jesus self-

denial to the point of emptying himself on a cross even though he is God (Philippians 2:5-11)

demonstrates the self-giving essence of Gods love.

Gods love is also demonstrated in his power. God is powerful, yet Gods power, true

power, is contrary to the morphed power of the world. Gods power is exercised through service.

Gods power is his love. He rules the world not for the benefit of himself, not for his own

preservation or glory. God rules the world through service. While he has the ability to act in any

way, to dominate creation, and to coerce his creatures, God exercises his powerfulness by

giving, by how much he nourishes his creatures, by how he fully communicates his own reality

to them(85). God does this within himself, as discussed earlier in the trinitarian relationship

bestowing and returning power, and through the gift of salvation that is Jesus Christ to his

creatures. Jesus power was not demonstrated in forcing people to listen to him and obey, but in

his own actions of service and self-denial that bring the power of freedom and redemption.

Gods love and power of self-giving, demonstrated through Jesus Christ, contributes to

our understanding of Gods eternal character. We find that God is not seeking his own benefit,

God is not seeking his own glory, his own honor, his own kingdom to rule over in control and

force. God reveals himself as utterly self-giving and the essence of love in which self-denial is

carried out as he desires to give life.

Beyond building an understanding of God, McGill also contributes to an understanding

of humanity in light of who God is and how he deals with the world. McGill argues that the

shape of the life of an individual Christian should be one that is ultimately moving from darkness

to the light of life. Helping people to do this is, after all, the exact work Jesus came to earth to

do. In fact, Jesus himself is the light of life. John 1:4 says, In him was life, and that life was the

light of all mankind. Therefore, our lives as Christians should be oriented toward Christ as the

light of life, and therefore, in movement away from death. McGill writes, The Christian is on

the way from evil to good, from death to life, from darkness to light. He finds himself in a state

of pilgrimage (26). On this pilgrimage, the best example we have is Jesus. Therefore, the

Christian life should take the form of Jesus life which was characterized by service and self-

giving. McGill writes that as a Christian shaped by Jesus, his or her life should be one of

unlimited self-expenditureof walking the second mile, of giving everything to feed the poor,

of laying down my life for my friendsthen that is the form of true life and joy for every man

(57). In order for our lives to continue in sanctification, they must consist of expending ourselves

for others. The self-expending love that Jesus showed is when one gives out of what is essential

to him.

Through Jesus self-expending life, God reveals to us what our true human nature and

being were created to be. Although sin has made us fallen, Jesus reveals to us what our lives will

become when we participate in Gods own life, the life of self-expenditure, which is eternal life.

Therefore, as humans our existence is one that is being transformed from death to life, from

darkness to light. It is about movement; moving more and more towards Jesus, the light of life.

Part of this movement is living a life of service and self-giving. McGill writes that to truly be

alive is not to heap up treasures or accomplishments for oneself on this earth, but to expend

oneself for others. However, self-expenditure is not loss, but true self-fulfillment, as Jesus says,

Whoever loses their life for my sake will find it (Matt 10:39). The life of expanding oneself

leads to emptiness and death, but the life of expending oneself leads to true life and joy. This is

the shape that a Christian life ought to take.Similarly, this is the shape that the common life of

the Christian church should take as well. A large role of the church is to do theology, in order to

better understand the work of God through Jesus, and how that applies to our lives as human

beings. The Christian church should also be one that gives out of what is essential in order to

further Gods kingdom. This is the Churchs role among its members as well as among the

broken world.

We find this account of Jesus and Gods power of self-giving to be theologically sound

and compelling as it draws us deeper into the beauty of Gods love. McGills explanation of the

parable of the Good Samaritan illuminates Jesus value of self expenditure regardless of results.

Jesus loves and expects people to love through self-denial for the sake of using all effort and

resources for the benefit of others. Jesus does not value self-giving because of the effects of the

selflessness, but because of the expression of love that is shown. Jesus is the perfect example of

this very love, as McGill argues that Jesus own existence is the most overwhelming

demonstration of this way (55). The love displayed in Jesus life, death, and resurrection is not

dependent on those who choose to accept it. Rather, this kind of love flows from Jesus giving of

his own self, giving up his life, which is the greatest act of love. John 15:13 says, There is no

greater love than this, that a man should lay down his life for his friends. In the same way,

Gods love is not dependent on our response, Gods love is a reality because of his own action.

We are compelled to the selfless nature of God because we are reminded that love is an action of

self-denial for the sake of another, not the results or response associated. When we think of

beautiful love, we think of a loving sacrifice, not conditional sacrifice for the sake of a rewarding


As we reflect on McGills exegesis and account of Jesus life, ministry, death, and

resurrection, we are encouraged by the self-expending vision he gives of God, humanity, and the

church. In a world where most everything is conditional, this vision of a self-giving God is one

who demonstrates and calls the church to act not on conditionality, but on unconditional love

through service and the expense of self. As we seek to be more and more like Jesus, moving

from darkness to light, our responsibility is to follow his lifestyle of giving up everything in

order to serve others. In the attempt to exhibit the same unconditional service of Jesus in a world

so contrary in which power equates to domination, the selfless service of Christians will be taken

advantage of. Actually living out of self-expenditure implies the actual emptying of the self,

which McGill argues, will lead to being taken advantage of, possibly even to the point of death

(55). McGills reflection on the life of Jesus gives Christians a deeper understanding of God and

themselves, leading them to strive for a life of uninhibited self-sacrifice.