Thursday, January 18, 2007

Suffering and Salvation

Hey Steve,
It was good to talk to you last night(as always). Would you please expound on what you were saying about how we, as Christians are supposed to suffer.

As I mentioned, the central passage I'm basing this on is Romans 8:17. The context of Romans is how the Gentiles are saved, equal to Jews, and all throughout it, Paul speaks about faith. But he mentions suffering at significant junctures, such as Romans 5:1-5, right in the midst of his discussion about how Jesus died for our sins. Then, in 8:17, in discussing how we know we are children of God through the confirmation of the Spirit within us, he says "we have received the inheritance, IF we have joined in his (Jesus') sufferings" We don't receive salvation if we do not participate in Jesus sufferings.

This agrees with what Jesus himself said. Jesus said that we would be his disciple only if we "take up your cross". He said that we would only obtain eternal life if we lose our lives. He said that we would obtain many blessings with following Jesus, but with them persecutions. The beatitudes are all about the suffering receiving God's blessing, while others who received only comfort in this life would get nothing.

So it seems to me that obtaining salvation is not just about believing the right thing or about acting the right way-- although these things are essential. But an essential ingredient is that we must also suffer for the gospel. According to Peter, it does us no good to suffer for what evil things we've done-- that's just justice. But we must go the extra step of suffering for Jesus and the gospel, and then we will obtain salvation.

What kind of suffering? There's many kinds described in Scripture:
-We could be persecuted for standing with Christ
-We could surrender all our possessions for the kingdom
-We could do what we must in Christ, even if it means our family or friends reject us
-We could preach the gospel in a threatening environment
- We could live a life of sacrifice for others, always giving, always surrendering, always looking for the loving thing to do, even if it is not best for ourselves or for our family
-We could surrender our inheritance so we could receive it in Jesus
-We could support and stand with those who are rejected for Jesus' sake, even if we get tarred with the same brush
We can tear out a part of ourselves to avoid sin

And more and more. The opportunities to suffer abound. But if we live a life avoiding suffering, then we spend our lives avoiding what Jesus could give to us. God doesn't give salvation to anyone who asks for it. They must need it first.

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