Second Class Suffering (Blogger Limelight) ~ BitterSweetLife

Monday, July 03, 2006

Second Class Suffering (Blogger Limelight)

Reality exists independent of my feelings about it, and often in defiance of them, so it comes as no surprise that Theology (the reality of God) is not defined by my felt need for itor my desire for its absence.

However, some of the beautiful truths about Christ are brought into focus through the existential lens of a troubled life. This is because 1) humanity’s problems naturally coincide with the Creator’s remedies, and, 2) God is very kind.

Take that as an intro to some thoughts that have been percolating in my mind over the last couple days.

Repeatedly in the Bible, we find the idea that to suffer for Christ’s sake is actually a means to great glory. Thus we find various disciples singing songs and carrying on happily when they are beaten and reprimanded, and Paul dropping the word “prisoner” with a glorious double-meaning. The paradox is shockingly clear: to suffer because of your loyalty to Jesus is an avenue to surprising wealth. As Jesus said, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great.”

But what about those of us who don’t get this opportunity?

Statistically speaking, we are a minority, since the experience of Christ’s followers throughout history has been one of persecution and death. Even today, this is the experience of a majority of believers in Christ. American Christians, and others who enjoy religious freedom, find themselves stranded in a historically-strange oasis of calm. Some suspect it may be unfortunate for us that our brand of Christianity is so uneventful.

Given that very few Americans will suffer serious persecution for Christ, other than the low grade slurs of Hollywood and the media, the question arises: Have we inadvertently slid into the unenviable position of second-class sufferers?

Say that I love Christ, and want to obey him as much as is possible on earth—but my life doesn’t seem to amount to much. I haven’t been given the chance to achieve anything glorious for Jesus. I haven’t started a hospital or led a crusade or become a missionary or written a book. But my life still sucks.

That is, I’ve had my share of disappointments, sickness, death and loss. I don’t see my life as a shining triumph because I’m taking the hits, but they aren’t overtly for Christ—and in the meantime I’m just getting by. So what should I conclude?

Am I, in some mysterious way, actually suffering for Christ’s sake? Or am I just in pain for no good reason—because that’s life? This seems like a question of paramount importance for Christians living out abnormally unmolested lives in religiously-free countries today.


I haven’t tried to pull off a Blogger Limelight discussion for awhile, so I’m going out on a limb in proposing this. But I thought I’d open this topic up for discussion.

What is your take on this question?

Am I, in some mysterious way, actually suffering for Christ’s sake? Or am I just in pain for no good reason—because that’s life?

This is assuming that you, like me, are a surprisingly well-off Christian living within the calm waters of this breaker reef we call “religious liberty.” For us, this question is essential. Of course, someone in a more "normal," persecuted state might have unique insight into this question.

Blogger Limelight guidelines are here. But in brief, all you need to do to join in is:
  1. Write a post addressing this subject.
  2. Add the Blogger Limelight button at the top of your post.
  3. Link back to this post.
Then enjoy the conversation. I’ll be posting my take in the next couple days—in what I hope will be a biblically-accurate direction.

Since most of this blog's readers are American, and tomorrow is July 4th, you suave international types have an unparalleled chance to get the first word in. ;)

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e-Mom said...

An excellent post, and a very good idea for discussion, Ariel. I've been thinking about this topic myself. (Plus martyrdom, a charisma of the Holy Spirit.) I'm not sure I'll have time to post on this, but I'll check back for yours and your readers thoughts. Blessings.

Dustin said...


I posted my addition to the discussion today. Hopefully others will do the same.

Andrew Simone said...

Here ya go, although I think my server is acting a little funny right now.

Ariel said...

Thanks for the contributions, guys. I have my post up as well now: Suffering & the Will of God.

Now for some discussion amongst ourselves...


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife