Monday, April 22, 2013

Trade Shame for Suffering? (2 Timothy 1:8-14)

In this short paragraph, Paul delivers four (of some 24 total) imperatives to Timothy. “Do not be ashamed of the testimony,” “Join with in suffering for the Gospel,” “Retain the sound standard of words,” and “Guard the treasure entrusted to you.” Demanding words!

Paul begins by encouraging Timothy to trade shame for suffering. That hardly seems like an attractive trade. However, when you think about it these are the only two possible approaches to life in a world burdened by sin. When Adam and Eve chose their own way over God’s, we are told that their first and immediate reaction was shame. In God’s judgment for their sin we see that suffering would be a consequence everyone would face going forward. So the result of sin in the world has been both shame and suffering ever since. Here Paul is describing the Christian walk as one of overcoming shame and enduring suffering.

We overcome shame by accepting the forgiveness God offers. The forgiveness freeing us from guilt and the freedom from the penalty of sin that causes the shame in which we live. We endure the suffering that the world has to offer because we no longer merely suffer under the consequences of sin in the world, but rather for the cause of the Gospel. We endure suffering with the hope that the Gospel story brings.

Strangely enough, the approach most Christians take to life with Christ is to live in shame of the way that they are different from the world, and to do everything in life to hide that difference and the potential persecution it can bring. We live in fear and avoid suffering. Paul encourages just the opposite approach.

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