Sunday, November 6, 2011

Suffering... Again. (Colossians 1:24-2:7)

“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…”

Just when did the American understanding of the Gospel become so distorted? Paul repeatedly stresses the suffering that is a part of the life of those who follow Jesus, yet we seem to actively teach the opposite. Specifically here we see that the apostolic ministry entails a high level of suffering. Yet it is hard to imagine some people who do this ministry today rejoicing in their suffering. Missionaries in past generations were quite realistic about the level of suffering and even sacrifice they would be undertaking when they took the Gospel message to other cultures. Today many people who “feel called” to spend their lives in a cross-cultural context barely make it past the first two years.

Part of the problem is the understanding (often unspoken) that western Christians have about suffering. They measure and interpret God’s will and direction for their lives by the degree of hardship they face. When the going gets tough, the average Christian decides they must have heard God wrong. The assumption is that God would never ask them to do anything dangerous (or even uncomfortable.) They seem to forget that our model—Jesus Christ—was led by God into the hardest of circumstances imaginable. Why should we think we are any different?

If you are toying with the idea of giving your life to cross-cultural living for the sake of the Gospel, know that it will be hard. And it will not really get any easier over time. That is the way it is supposed to be.

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