The Evangelical Flirtation With Suffering

I am increasingly concerned about what I see in Christian articles, blogs, Twitter, etc., as a “flirtation with suffering.” There is almost a grief that we in the West do not suffer enough for Christ and have become by that less than what Christ wants us to be. In a strange turn of thought there is the wish for more of it, an intentional martyrdom, as it were. It is given a nobility and status that reminds me more of Islamic jihad martyrdom than Christianity’s “deliver us from evil.” I particularly see this strain of thought in John Piper and at the Desiring God site, though by no means is the only one.

Clearly there is that stream of biblical teaching that we are to “count it all joy” and to gladly identify with Christ in his sufferings. Yet this is on a different order than the seeking of suffering. In the early church the intentional seeking of suffering through martyrdom put one outside of the state of grace, and there are many sermons on this coming from the Church Fathers. The Roman Catholic refuses to canonize any Christian who intentionally sought persecution and death.

We must be careful with this tonic that is being peddled to especially young Christians who have grown bored with blessings. As a Pastor of some 45 years, I have seen where this goes, and it isn’t pretty. We accept suffering and glory in Christ’s provision. The blessings of health, financial provision, and peace are directly from the hand of the Lord, and to refuse them simply because we want to suffer is the twisted logic of evil. Be very careful of the pulpit exaltation of suffering beyond its natural and biblical bounds. It will end up convincing Christians who are blessed that they are cursed.

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