Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Suffering in the American Christian Middle Class

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.  (1 Peter 2:21)

In this passage (yesterday’s text in Through the Bible Through the Years, page 265), Peter writes of submission to governmental authorities and to one’s master (as in master-servant), even where, especially where, those in authority are acting unjustly.  This is easy for me to picture for those in the early church, where Nero reigned in Rome and many Christians were slaves.  What about us in suburbia?

There certainly are visible circumstances of suffering, such as illness and unemployment that we contend with.  We certainly don’t look at those things as a “calling,” however.   A calling is something one embraces.  To one in the American middle class, suffering does not seem very often like something to take up, but something to avoid, to deal with quickly and to fix, if at possible.  We often have the means to defeat suffering – after all, this is America.

Yet Jesus had the means to defeat suffering as well.  Here we are called to follow in his steps.  Stott points that out the “Greek word for example here is unique in the New Testament.  It denotes a teacher’s copybook on which children trace their letters when learning to write.”  This doesn’t sound like “health and wealth” to me.  Could a call to suffering be part of the Christian bargain?  If so, is that call to all of Jesus’ followers?  Or is it exceptional, as the one made to Mother Theresa?

 As a Christian, I pray against the suffering of my friends and loved-ones.  “Take that cup away from them."  I make that prayer usually without any thought that the suffering may be related somehow to God’s calling.  Should I be more careful about how I pray about the suffering of others and of myself?  I will occasionally concede to God that his will should be done in the lives of those whom I know are suffering, but is that just pious window dressing?  It’s really not what I want in that case, God's will.  I want my will to be done.

Dear Lord, if this suffering of our loved one is related to your calling, then give my loved one the strength to embrace it, even if it is leading to a sort of Calvary.  Especially in myself, Lord, help me to understand that what I don’t like, what I simply can’t stand, what is standing in my way, what is hurting me, may be, after all, part of your purpose and calling in my life.  Thank you for your Holy Spirit, and may he come.  Amen.

1 comment:

Carol said...

An excellent post.