Discipleship and the Christian Life: Suffering for the faith

“… If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” (1 Peter 4:16)
“… So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” ( 1 Peter 4:19 )

Five year ago [What does it mean to suffer?] I asked some probing questions about how much we truly suffer – in our modern age – by being Christians. Are we absolutely miserable because of our Christian commitment? Are we missing out on enjoying life because “suffering” gets in the way, or our commitment to God forces us into a certain way of life? And just how do we think our suffering compares to believers in the past – both the distant past and in the past hundred years?

But I am no longer that critical. The reason? Because the definition of Christianity and the hallmarks of that life are so diverse and scattered that one strain of Christianity can actually be at odds with another. And that, gentle reader, means there is suffering. Suffering by the Christian or Christians who believe they are the right. Suffering by those Christians who really are in the wrong. And suffering by the general non-Christian population seeing the friction and dichotomy between these two “Christian” groups. It may not be the suffering that Christians did in ages and eras before. But it is suffering – do not be in doubt on that point.

And the greatest tragedy is that this suffering can not be abated and healed until we know what is correct and authentic Christian belief. I have given my opinions on this issue; but this is not the time to re-examine and discuss that. I have never been a fan of divisiveness, and I am certainly not going to allow it here. But would I do suggest is that the varying Christian groups take solace from these verses. If they feel strongly that are suffering because they do not see or feel unity with other Christian groups, then these verse is for them. And if they suffer because Christianity itself is misunderstood and attacked or maligned, these verses are for them.

I would not ask a committed Christian to veer from their faith beliefs. I would ask though that all Christians remain open to discussion about their faith, both with other Christians and those who do not espouse a Christian faith.

May our God see our suffering, and heal us, every one. Selah!

Discipline in the Church – If Christians have a bad rep . . . .

“You, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Romans 2:21-24)

The Confession says, “Persistent and uncorrected false teaching and sinful conduct among Christians undermine the proclamation and credibility of the gospel in the world.“ Consider that this was written in 1995, before (or perhaps during) the time Christianity was perceived as becoming “hard line.” But the Confession as predictive, is not actually pointing to Christianity as a pseudo socio-political group, but as a group of people trying to live out an authentic Christian life. Sins of gluttony, greed, wrath, immorality etc are undesirable, but common fair in most people’s lives. It takes a “real” hard-line “Christian” to express bigotry, hatred, intolerance, and self-righteousness!

The writer of Romans was chastising his audience for committing the sins they were condemning in others. “Modern Christians” have gone beyond this with their prejudice and sanctimony, and condemning those who are guilty of the sins that these Christians have decided for themselves are sins. If God’s name was blasphemed then, I shudder to think what has happened to God’s name now. The saddest thing is that Christianity is supposed to be about compassion, forgiveness, and understanding. Who amongst the average unbeliever would describe some current Christians in that way?

I think, gentle reader, we do not just need discipline IN the church, we need discipline OF the church. Mennonites are not immune to such needs, I am sorry to say. An often refrain in the comments this year has been, “we are no worse, but we are no better.” It brings me close to weeping to consider this fact. Our Anabaptist forebears stood up to their current society and said we will not go along with prevailing sentiments. Currently some Mennonites have been saying, “what the masses believes sounds good to me.” It is to weep.

May you gentle reader search your heart and your understanding of our God, and may you stand firm in your convictions modeling the compassion, mercy, and forgiveness that is offered to us by our Lord. Selah!