Thursday, July 17, 2014

Church Signs: H.O.P.E.

The other day on my bus route, I saw a message on a church sign. The message was the acronym HOPE, with the letters standing for Hold On Pain Ends. As always, the wheels started to turn. I thought, "You know, that's true. Pain will end at some point, either during our lifetime or when we die." Then I thought of another way to look at it.

The message could be, "Hold on, pain will be redeemed." I know that doesn't work as an acronym, but that's the way it goes. In Colossians 1:27, Paul writes that the hope of glory for the Christian is Christ in us. Paul also says in that chapter that his sufferings serve in some way to continue or complete the sufferings of Christ himself. Paul saw his sufferings as part of the sufferings of the Messiah. The ancient Jews believed that Israel and the world would have to go through great suffering before the inauguration of the age to come. Paul, and the early Christians, believed that Jesus had undergone that suffering on the cross, and had begun the age to come with his resurrection.

Because the new age is not fully realized until Christ returns, there is still suffering to undergo. The early church got this. One of the reasons they could rejoice in the midst of persecution and suffering was the belief that the suffering they endured served to advance the kingdom in some way. They believed that because Christ in them was their hope of glory that their pain would not only end at some point, but that it would also be redeemed by God.

Much of the church today doesn't get it. A great deal of what is taught and practiced in churches is designed to alleviate and play down suffering, if not to pretend that it doesn't exist. Jesus told us that we would have trouble in this life. He never promised that life would be a piece of cake. Paul doesn't say that we have Christ in us, the hope of our best life now. It is true that we are glorified with Christ. It is equally true that the completion of that glory will only come when we see him. Our redemption is now, and not yet.

Take heart in your suffering. There is hope. Christ in you seals your glory. Your suffering will end, some day. It will also be redeemed for good.


KC Bob said...

"Hold on, pain will be redeemed."

I have to admit that this challenges me Fred.

What do you think that redemption will look like in heaven?

Fred Shope said...

Bob, that's a good question. I don't know exactly what that would look like. Perhaps we'll get to see positive effects our pain had on others through what they saw in us. Maybe we will see the ways in which it made us more like Christ.

Fred Shope said...

I hope my comment didn't seem to make light of suffering. I know you have been through more than your share. I really don't have any good answers. For me, I have to believe that God redeems our pain somehow. Otherwise it seems hopeless.

KC Bob said...

No problem Fred. I struggle with question and was wanting the input of a seasoned believer like yourself.

I think that the redemption of pain is a great hope for people who suffer. It seems to flow with the character of God. Even so, there is little teaching and, I think, little belief that pain will be redeemed in Heaven.

KC Bob said...

Hi again. This is as close as I can find to something in the bible that seems to indicate that folks who suffer will be rewarded in heaven.

"“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." -Matthew 5:11-12

But perhaps there are other verses?

Fred Shope said...

Those verses speak to it, and also in Romans where Paul says that our suffering in this life doesn't compare to the glory that awaits us.

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