Thursday, 22 May 2008

From the depths...

"It is not religious acts that make the Christian,
but participation in the sufferings of God in secular life - that is real repentance...
not thinking in the first place about one's own problems, sins, needs or fears,
but allowing oneself to be caught up into the life of Jesus Christ.
Then pain is a holy angel - the pain of longing, which needs to be overcome so that something
even holier may be expressed - joy in believing" (Dietrich Bonhoeffer -Letters from Prison).

Every now and then you read something which causes a large 'STOP' sign to appear in your thoughts - similar to how the word 'selah' was used in the Psalms - pause and consider this.
That was certainly the case when I read the above passage this week.
How often do we consider - in a right fashion - the thought, never mind the possibility, of 'suffering' for God in a manner which impacts upon the secular world around us?

The Apostle Paul once spoke words which make me shudder. In his letter to the Colossians, he speaks of how his suffering was 'filling up what was lacking' in Christ's afflictions (1:24) - stewardship which marked him and thereby marked this world.
Of course, in Paul's case, you don't have to probe too deeply to see just how this was so.
"We are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and lost", he could confess, "a fragrance of death and life" (2 Corinthians 2:15&16). Do people savor something of that in us in our moments here, or is our spirituality unapproachable, our 'light' in some small corner where it never seeps into the daily, the common and the special.

I was reminded today - in a science fiction novel - of the value of Jeremiah.
In the midst of a time of impending and overwhelming events, he did something that, naturally speaking, must have appeared to be the height of folly. Amidst the siege of the city by the might of the Babylonians, he buys real estate! (Jeremiah 32).
How many of us would even consider such an act rational, but there's a mandate here that so much so called 'spirituality' can totally miss.
It is said that when he was once asked what he would do if he knew for certain that the Lord would return this very day, Martin Luther replied that he would go and plant a tree.

Let me ask you something - just how deeply is your redemption, your living, your eternal hope, tied to the reality which surrounds you? Is our faith about jumping ship, going elsewhere, or investing in the moment when Christ returns and makes this place the throne of an eternal kingdom?

As I've talked to friends and neighbours this week, hearing them, through words, art, and other means, express their thoughts on life, as I've watched the world rushing by, I've begun to ponder Bonhoeffer's words afresh - living through faith which counts.

We need to learn about the fellowship of His sufferings, His joy within this hollowed domain, that we can taste something of the beauty which is drawing closer every day.
Let us yearn to partake in such fellowship, to enrich this world with something far beyond money or price...the strength, the exquisite depths, of the love of God in His Son.

1 comment:

Steve said...


You hit this one way out of the ballpark. In the States, we would call it a 'tape measure shot'.

If you are not suffering then you are not living. The sufferings here are but for a little while and the Lord in His wisdom uses it all for the Glory of God. "All things work together for good for those who have faith."

Many Christians before me knew great suffering, the likes of which I couldn't imagine. Yet they stayed faithful. I am weak. I want to break and run at the first scent of death. But somehow the Lord keeps me. He won't let go of me even though I would abandon Him.

In our congregation when a child is baptised the pastor says," He welcomes you into the fellowship of His suffering."

This often seems strange to parents, or friends in attendance. But for those of us that have been in Christ awhile, we know that it is true.
"In this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world." - Jesus

Thanks very much, Howard. Your timing with this post couldn't have been better for me.

- Steve