—John Piper, Desiring God
Piper's final full chapter challenges me. He speaks of suffering in the life of the Christian as both calling and blessing, how we have the privilege of showing the love of the cross to a world that needs to see this kind of love. How against my nature it is to grasp that it is pleasure to share in His sufferings, rather than simply duty.
Most thought provoking this morning are the accounts of martyrs in the growth of the early church. Christians risked their lives simply by being Christians, called to testify to their faith and often sentenced to public persecution/execution. "The blood of the martyrs is seed." Many came to believe simply through the testimony of their peace and courage in facing death, and countless more seeds were likely planted that later bore fruit.
How different this is than what the church has become! Our legacy became one of oppression in its own right, even on a global scale, proving the maxim that power corrupts. In today's church (at least in the West), comfort is king, pews are padded, worship is led by PowerPoint presentation. We can be bothered neither with the injustice perpetuated by others or by ourselves, and heaven forbid we are asked to repent of our history. Some leaders peddle the idea that prosperity is the key to revealing God's glory to the world, disregarding the blatant contradiction with the life, example, teaching, and very spirit of Christ. When did we stop suffering? Little wonder we've lost credibility with our culture.
(This morning's portrait in affluent moronica: a man dressed in a polo shirt and sport coat getting out of his silver BMW SUV to cross the street to Starbucks. Yuck.)
I paint with broad strokes of rebuke, including myself, yet praise God that He is still raising up faithful witnesses. Masochistic as it may sound, praise Him that there is still suffering for the gospel— not because of the evil intent of the enemy, but so that the world can see who Jesus is. To the Galatians, Paul wrote, "I bear on my body the marks of Jesus" (Galatians 6:17); and to the Colossians, he said, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you and I complete in my flesh what was lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of His body, which is the church" (Colossians 1:24). Not that Jesus left any work incomplete. He uses the suffering of believers to show Himself, to show the love of the cross.
So much more to say, to think, to learn, to digest.