“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.”
I have been wanting to write on suffering and sacrifice for a long time, but it seemed to daunting a task to undertake! I have yet to plumb the depths of this subject and am hardly a biblical expert on the subject or even know, in general, how the Bible speaks of the issue (because it is a central biblical message). So I decided for the first time ever in the history of my blog to invite guest bloggers to contribute. And I am excited to hear form them! These guest bloggers include people who have thought intently on the subject, those who have given their professional and personal lives overseas in works of mercy and have seen more suffering (and have lived more sacrificially) in one month than I have in my whole life, those who lead organizations that have sacrifice and suffering as a core distinctive, those who intentionally seek out others who are suffering in their own ministry of sacrifice, and those people in multiple layers of all the above.
I long to have a greater understanding of a theology of suffering and sacrifice. And I hope you would too. Whenever I am asked by people (especially in light of my time living in Third World conditions/countries) what I think the Western church is missing, I almost inevitably answer with: “we don’t know suffering”. And I am firmly convinced that suffering and sacrifice is a key ingredient to church growth and sanctification. Yet many churches and individuals following Jesus in the West are far from (biblical) suffering and sacrifice, even to the point of purposefully fleeing from it or doing everything possible to end it as soon as it comes upon them. We do not sacrifice well. We do not suffer well. Count me as one included in this tendency. The first example I thought of in regards to this dichotomy in our faith, we here in America have the privilege, time, and energy to debate and spend enormous amounts of resources and human capital in trying to get prayer back in public schools. Meanwhile, dozens of our brothers and sisters are being tortured or killed in the world for their faith…today. And we have the audacity to say that we are being “persecuted” because our kids cant pray in school, failing to recognize the obvious flippancy of that sentiment in the context of the Bible, or global understanding.
Please come along for the ride. You will hear a wonderful symphony of voices and perspectives, of hope and prophetic strain, of saints and sinners. My hope and prayer in doing a series on this is that we will become people who actually proactively put ourselves in places and situations in which we would suffer and sacrifice for Jesus, not just reactively (and there is a big difference). And that we would really understand what it would mean to be people who “partake in the sufferings of Jesus” as Paul and Peter would (often) say. And “partaking in the sufferings of Jesus” is nothing less than the Cross, and a life of “cruciform”…in all areas.
More to come!