Saturday, May 02, 2020

Share the Suffering

The Gospel of Peace. The Gospel of Reconciliation.

Who would have thought such a Gospel would bring suffering and division? Our carnal thinking says it wouldn't. Our natural inclination, when confronted with suffering because of the Gospel, is to assume we've done something wrong.

Certainly the enemy and the world all around us is happy to jump on that band wagon. It is a common cry and judgment amongst those who don't believe His Word. "This isn't love!" "You call yourself a Christian? Those words aren't loving!" "If this was truly God's plan it would not have resulted in such public outcry, in such strife. He is the bringer of peace, remember!"

As of late I've been reading through several of Paul's letters. Paul? Oh, let me clarify: the Apostle Paul, writer of much of the New Testament. Esteemed teacher and leader. The one who boldly declared (and through the Living Word declares still today), "Imitate me as I imitate Christ."

Share in the suffering, he says. I, Paul, am imprisoned. But don't be ashamed of me, rather be bold and look for God's strength so you yourself might face affliction for the sake of the Gospel. 

This is not the suffering of sickness, poverty, or sentimental disappointment, though those are all real enough. Paul is talking about persecution and affliction because of the Gospel.

It is true. This is the Gospel of Peace. But let's be clear. It is the Gospel of Peace with God. Once we have partnered in this covenant of peace and reconciliation with God, we become His --  His own people.

Simply put, those at enmity with God are now at enmity with us as well.

So let us hear Paul and wake up. There will be affliction and suffering for those who declare the truth of the Gospel. Stop dreaming and drinking the Kool-Aid. There is no Utopia and there will be no Utopian world culture. We will never evolve into sinless creatures. Ever. No matter how long this earth exists, man will always have sin. And sin is the basis of enmity with God. A covenant that removes sin allows us to be friends living in peace with God, but those who cling to sin remain in enmity.

Are we called to be peace makers? Yes. But can we make peace between the enemies of God and ourselves? We have only one means to do so: the preaching of the Gospel of Christ, the Prince of Peace. The outcome of that preaching is not in our hands. Through that preaching many others will enter into peace with God. With them we must learn to live in peace. But it is through that same preaching that we will find ourselves at enmity with those who cling to sin and are contrary to God. It is inevitable. The Word guarantees it to be so.

Again, let us hear Paul who wrote again and again, exhorting the church to share in the suffering he himself experienced.
So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don't be ashamed of me, either, even though I'm in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. 1 Timothy 1:8

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