Jesus didn’t go to the cross so we wouldn’t have to. He went to the cross so we could join him there. – Dallas Willard

Last night we had some friends over to sit, have wine, have bread and talk about Jesus. Very informal. We had the movie The Gospel of John playing in the background, and during that time we talked about our favorite Jesus account. One thing turned to another in the conversation and somehow we ended up talking about suffering. It got me thinking, because as we talked I found that a distinction needs to be made in the way we think about suffering.

On one hand there is the distortion of sanctification through suffering, that it is the process of suffering that makes me holy. Daily looking for a (physical) ‘martyr’s death’/suffering, or even (as we see in some traditions) causing oneself meaningless physical pain. Meaningless, that is, in that it is disconnected to the situation that causes the suffering to be in witness for Christ: i.e. whipping oneself.

On the other hand, suffering is a part of the Christian life, because it was a part of Christ’s. We can’t avoid it…well, we shouldn’t avoid it. Granted, it seems that (especially in the West) we have come up with a doctrinal way of thinking in order to avoid it, but “no servant is great than his master” and if they hated Christ, they will hate us. Of course, this suffering isn’t self-inflicted, but rather out of submission to Christ. It is not our suffering that sanctifies, but Christ who makes us holy. But we don’t need to look for the suffering. If we are following Christ it will find us.

Finally, with these things considered, this B.C. cartoon has been floating around:

“Thank you, Jesus, for Your sacrifice. Teach me how to sacrifice too. Teach me how to love like You. Let my life be like a love song that You sing to the world, through me.”