I don’t quite know how to write this post. This is something I’ve been mulling for years but what tends to jolt me into deeper reflection is our culture climate. A climate where a mother found out her child was run over by a man who saw no value in the Imago Dei painted caramel, a culture rotted by destroyed marriages, a culture where girls see their self image in terms of calorie consumption. Yes we lament and condemn and every once in a while pray about it, but maybe if the Lord was so gracious He would cause us to simply weep more. And not only do we breathe brokenness, but we excrete brokenness out of our pores. We sin. And when I thought about how to start to deal with the reality of tears, there was no cutesy Inside Out quote that could possibly do justice to this reality: One day Jesus will wipe away EVERY tear from our eyes. There may be no more magnificent line in the Bible than this:
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And yet, I don’t think I personally can grasp all the implications of this. It is something far more magnificent than our deepest desire could hope for or think upon. I think the best I can do is to try to build an “imaginative theology” (copyright pending) on this. So as one homesick pilgrim to another, here we go.
I want you to imagine this. Your body no longer aches, your toes squish and squeeze New Earth earth, surrounded by dear friends, there’s a strange familiarity that you can’t name, brain freeze melting into a pleasant sensation, and yet there’s something so radically different that jolt you. There’s no recognition of what this is until on the horizon, a human figure approaching. A lightning-like tremor zaps through your body at the mere sight and you fall to your knees. You can’t quite figure out why you fell except as if all along this is what your soul had longed for was to fall, as if it were the grand design of Homo Sapien to become struck down. And just as your head begins to kiss the ground, a darkened hand, hollowed by a nail, grasps your cheek and propels your face skyward. A mixture of surprise and hope begins to flirt with the familiarity. And you realize this is faith become sight. At the same time, a salty substance begins to creep down your cheek remembering what has led you up to this moment. But as tears stream down your face, you remember the chant of Tetelestai and know instantly that the curse of Adam cannot bear the presence of this God-man. And as tears stream down your face, you instantly know that all has been made right. The word “brokenness” has disappeared from the dictionaries of this world into a vague idea of some past thing too hard to remember. But let me ask you a question: what were your tears for? Or better yet, were all your tears for the same reason? Maybe that’s a little too vague, but let’s plant the seed and see how it grows.
So let’s do a little theological primer on tears: I don’t care if you’re the most hardened person on the planet or the biggest softie: you came out of your momma wailing. You were quite literally being a baby. There was nothing sinful about that, so we can’t conclude that tears are in any way wrong. On the contrary, it would seem the most natural state for a human when birthed into a new world order is tears. And if we need more evidence, well, Jesus wept, you probably have that verse down pat as some ironic thing downplaying the importance of Scripture but whatever. Tears are certainly then an aspect of humanity and normal for humans in response to external and internal events. Put another way: no one escapes this life unscathed. And at their core, tears are a cry of helplessness in the face of something previously undealt with or something unable to be reckoned with properly. Would you cry about anything if you were able to instantaneously able to make it right? No! Tears in relation to sadness are then ultimately an acknowledgement that we just simply can’t even.
How comforting then that the God of the Universe acknowledges that the divine plan for the New Earth starts with Him dealing with our tears? Whoa. There’s two major things going on here. First, it’s taken for granted that God can and will do something about our tears. That we don’t worship a God that is crippled but when He simply utters a word it must come true. “Let there be light” and at the vibration of His sound wave, a light wave was. That’s power but there’s more than power, there’s also care. The act of wiping away tears is one of the most intimate acts imaginable. It’s an acknowledgement that I care so much about you that I’ll even wipe your eye juice away. It declares that I care about the reason for your tears. But ultimately, wiping away tears is an act of war. It says that the cause of your tears will not get the final word but instead that I will. An all-powerful God who is capable of obliterating every problem and who one day will obliterate every trace of them, cares for his Imago Dei so much that He doesn’t just know your problem but, He offers retribution in the form of wiping away tears with the same hand struck by nails for you. There was no who dared wipe away his anguished tears on the cross that you caused and yet, here he is. And here you are in front of him. Only because of what he did and not anything that you deserved, tears streaming down your face, and he still chooses to wipe them. That the wrongs and offenses you willfully chose over the Creator and Ultimate Pleasure, Jesus took upon himself and then wipes away the wrongs and offenses done against you.
So my fear is that this stays in the clouds and never lands on the ground so here’s where our imagination can come in. When Jesus says he will wipe away “every tear”, in the Greek that means “every tear”. So let’s think through what the source of those tears are. The desperate sobs of a miscarriage. Jesus flicks away some tears. Wiped. The ashamed cry of a man who can’t stop looking at porn and is destroying his marriage, yet clinging to the hope that the Spirit is sanctifying as he repents. Jesus’s finger traces his sticky cheek. Wiped. The cry of the girl who looks in the mirror deceived that her proportions are wrong. Jesus looks over her newly perfect body that he bought with blood and warmly dries her eyes. The dry heave of the family worried that their son will be targeted as a result of his color. Jesus wipes away the demon of racism that is no more.
There is no tear that was shed as a result of sin committed by you or against you that Jesus will not wipe. But shouldn’t this be something that the church latches to? If our resurrected Lord finds it necessary to wipe away tears, shoudn't we as his bride do the same as a signpost towards that great day? What would it look like for the church to attempt to wipe away the tears of racism? Of sexual abuse? Of family? Well if our theology of tears says that Jesus not only sympathizes but acts, then so should the church in whatever way we can. I’m not here to offer up how but simply to say that maybe the great mantra of the church should be to model Jesus and wipe away the tears of new converts, the sick, the traumatized, the oppressed, and a myriad of other. And where we as the church fail, I am confident that Jesus will wipe away the tears resulting from that too.
But what about the tears that aren’t sad? Obviously this text is more concerned with tears caused by the sorrows of this earth, but what does Jesus do with the tears of a groom who watched his bride walk down the aisle? The tears of joy at the birth of a baby? The tears of salvation? Imagine with me the tears of a man united with the woman he spent his life with looking at their true Groom. The tears of parents who see their redeemed child both the same age with the cry “Maranatha has happened” on their lips. The woman who looks with astonishment on King Jesus, marveling at how she could even be here. And on that happy shore is when we will realize, that the salt-filled waves which our lives were sailed upon will find their fulfillment in the King of Ages.