Monday, January 16, 2012

Reflection: Suffering, culture and individualism

For years I have been thinking about "suffering" in the Bible. I would like to share a few thoughts over time. These thoughts are not final, for I am still working on them. But I hope they are useful.

Two thoughts in this post.

(1) Our church culture today (in the West) tends to avoid suffering, rather than embracing it. We want the gospel to be one that delivers us from suffering. We even avoid the word "suffering" and replace it with the word "challenge". Suffering is a negative thing, and we want to replace it with a more positive attitude. We want to triumph over suffering, because otherwise we are seen as indulging in it. But the biblical writers are not ashamed of suffering. They happily talk about it. In their suffering they seek God's mercy. They lament, and they even protest (read the Psalms!). And in the New Testament we find Jesus embracing suffering and death, and because of his faithfulness God raised him from the dead and exalted him to the highest place (Philippians 2). In 2 Corinthians we find Paul following the way of Christ. He boasts of his weakness, for he knows that it is in his weakness and hardships that God's power is manifest.

(2) In an individualistic culture, we tend to treat those who suffer as individuals. They have to first deal with their own problems as individuals; and we, as independent individuals, will show them mercy and compassion as we see fit. But people with a Christ-centred communal worldview do things differently. The followers of Jesus form a Christ-community. In this community we see each other as siblings in Christ. When someone suffers, the whole community shares the pain. We rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. We share our resources and we learn from each other in our suffering. And it is all based on the fact that Christ suffered and died for our sins.

1 comment:

Earning a Prophet's Wage said...

"But people with a Christ-centred communal worldview do things differently."

Christ-centered communal worldview...

powerful words... the lense through which soooooooo much Bible stuff and theology stuff starts making far more sense than it did when I was growing up.

Amen!

Good post, wonderful blog.

Thanks for sharing