Friday, May 16, 2008

For Sunday May 18 - This is Easy?

1 Peter 4:12-19
The picture here is of a bombed church in Iraq. Would you go to worship the next Sunday if this happened to our church?
One of my biggest, and I mean BIGGEST pet peeves in modern Christianity is the way the faith is portrayed as a remedy for life's tough stuff. That is to say, Christianity is peddled as solution to all of life's problems, and that God will replace your troubles with comfort and ease if you do things right. Smiling preachers all over media spout that dribble. Suffering is a result, according to some teachers, of "some hidden sin" in a person's heart. While that may, in fact, be the cause of some kinds of suffering - Peter even says we need to make sure that that's NOT why we are suffering - the Christian is told to embrace suffering as a path to deep faith in God.
There is an essential difference, at the same time, between the normal suffering that comes with life - ie sickness, accidents, death and grieving, etc. - and the suffering that comes our way as a result of being a follower of Christ. In the West we don't often deal with the latter brand of suffering very much. But Christians all over the world know such suffering well. The Church in China (check out this BBC article from 2004) and Iraq, for instance, know what it is to suffer. Instead of seeing ourselves (the Church in the West) as specially blessed because we do not suffer, could it be that we are somehow poor because we don't know the riches that result from such suffering? Could it be that sacrifice is part of what opens the door to being a suffering people - and we're not so good at genuine sacrifice? What would happen if we began to really sacrifice? Is that a frightening prospect for you? What would that kind of sacrifice look like in real life? - Curtis


  1. I guess I'm not convinced that suffering is something to be desired. It's true that suffering can make one's faith stronger. But it does nothing to make it more accurate. Many groups with whom I disagree are suffering, and it results in being more stuck in their position, and unable to consider alternatives. Perhaps a situation of non-suffering gives us the freedom to focus on the content of our faith.

  2. Just wondering: If suffering is a blessing/benefit, should we infer that we ought to enable others to suffer for their beliefs as well, by persecuting them? If not, why not?

  3. Response to postings: It isn't that suffering itself is something to be sought out, or a blessing in itself. It is what suffering signifies and does in/through us: It develops an identification of the believer to Jesus (1 Peter 4); and it leads us to "share in the fellowship of Christ's sufferings" (Paul). That "fellowship of sufferings" creates the opportunity for redemptive suffering. Redemptive suffering by believers is what brings to life, today, Christ's suffering on the cross 2000 years ago. Paul writes,
    "Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church." When he says that he suffers for "what was lacking" in Christ's afflictions - he isn't stating that there was something missing in Jesus' suffering. He's saying that when we suffer, we point people to Jesus' suffering and forgiveness. The only thing "lacking" is a living example, a living signpost to Jesus. That's our role and it is accomplished only as we are willing to suffer for Jesus' sake.
    Finally, the idea of causing another person's suffering through persecution is anathema to the Christian life. To think that we would somehow be "blessing" them by causing them to suffer is bizarre and patently ridiculous.


Thanks for posting!