Thursday, May 24, 2012

How God Became King 2

In How God Became King, N.T. Wright states that the death of Jesus Christ on the cross was the inauguration of the kingdom, that "The cross serves the goal of the kingdom. just as the kingdom is accomplished by Jesus' victory on the cross." Jesus' victory was accomplished by taking the worst the kingdoms of this world (symbolized by Rome) and the one behind those kingdoms (Satan) could throw at him, and coming out the other side, having conquered death and hell. The establishment of this kingdom was not what everyone expected. It was a kingdom based on sacrificial love, rather than a kingdom like all the other kingdoms.

Wright goes on to state that Jesus followers saw themselves as participating in Jesus' kingdom through their suffering. Jesus was very clear that following him meant suffering. We here in the West seem to have forgotten that. One one side are "Job's friends," who see any suffering as a result of some sin in the individual's life. On the other side are those who see all suffering as coming from Satan, so all we have to do is have enough faith to "speak" the suffering away, in effect pretending the suffering doesn't exist. Of course, if you don't have enough faith to speak the trouble away, then it is your fault just as it is on the other end of the spectrum. I believe both ends of the spectrum miss the boat.

I was having a short on-line discussion with a friend the other day about an article I had read about a theology of suffering. The article stated that we need to teach that God doesn't always heal, but that he is always present with us in our suffering. My friend made the comment that it can be as damaging to believe in a God who is present but doesn't heal as it is to have a God who can heal but lets us suffer because of our lack of faith. I agree with that. This is where the idea of suffering as the means by which God's kingdom comes to earth changes a lot of our thinking and practice. If we suffer, and the kingdom advances through our suffering, then we can say with Paul, "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." (Romans 5:3-5) 

Paul also stated that he wanted to know Christ, to know the power of his resurrection. We have no problem wanting that as well. But then Paul goes on to say that he wanted to participate in Christ's sufferings, becoming like him in his death. We have a hard time getting hold of that. But if the suffering of the followers of Jesus advances his kingdom, then we shouldn't see it as a result of our sin or an attack of Satan (although those may be contributing factors), but rather see it as something that will bring glory to our King and good to his kingdom.


Kansas Bob said...

"we also glory in our sufferings"

Thanks Fred. I needed to hear that and the message in your post today.

co_heir said...

You're welcome, Bob. It's a message that I have had to hear the last few months myself.

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