Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Suffering with Jesus

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which will be revealed in us.

What does it mean that we are joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with him? I had this conversation with a few people over the past couple days. What is the function of that suffering? Is it something we seek out, in order that we can be like Christ and become closer to him? If we live pretty easy lives without a lot of suffering, in which self-denial also doesn't play that big a part, does this mean that we won't be glorified with him and aren't joint heirs? And what does it mean to "suffer with Christ"? Is it to undergo the same sort of suffering he went through (ie, being despised and rejected while loving the world) for his sake? If we want to be glorified with him, is this passage a mandate to seek out that kind of suffering? Or, is it bringing him into the fairly pointless sufferings that we have already? If I stub my toe but praise Jesus anyhow and ask him to help me bear the pain, am I suffering with Jesus?

I feel like both are true. One thing that I'm pretty sure of (mostly because Bonhoeffer says so, but I think it's warranted by the text) is that the suffering itself isn't of any intrinsic value. Paul says that "our current sufferings aren't worthy to be compared with the glory which will be revealed in us." I don't think he would have phrased it like this if it was; I think he would have said, "our present sufferings are actually very precious because they make us more like Jesus" or something like that. The phrasing indicates that they have value and weight but it's all on the negative side. Also, say Paul was talking about his own suffering. That was done all for the sake of Jesus and was undertaken willingly. But he didn't undertake or try to suffer, he undertook to follow Jesus' great commission and to bring Gentiles into the kingdom. Suffering happened along the way.

So, I think that the important thing here is Jesus. We are mandated to follow him, and this probably automatically means that we won't have terribly easy lives. (Does it? In America right now?) If we follow him, it means following him into suffering, and the more that we rely on him, the more that he is our only hope and all we have, the more we identify ourselves in him and can die to our old selves and be glorified with Jesus. My personal opinion, which I'm not sure is in the Bible anywhere, is trusting in and loving Jesus through our own pointless suffering is redemptive in that it is good practice in clinging to Jesus and following him into suffering for his sake.

1 comment:

n.t.t. said...

> But [Paul] didn't undertake or try to suffer, he undertook to follow Jesus' great commission and to bring Gentiles into the kingdom. Suffering happened along the way.

On the other hand, Colossians 1:24: Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church[...]

> My personal opinion, which I'm not sure is in the Bible anywhere, is trusting in and loving Jesus through our own pointless suffering is redemptive in that it is good practice in clinging to Jesus and following him into suffering for his sake.
I agree. I can't think of a reference either, but I believe that God "redeems" our otherwise pointless suffering, using it to sanctify and teach us.

Thanks for writing. :-)