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Passion: Celebrating Suffering?

Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.  2 Corinithians 1.7

In our Christian Scriptures it seems that  some of the later writers seem to try and glorify the suffering that Jesus went through, and tell  readers that we are made better through suffering, that when we suffer we are being ‘Christ-like’ and therefore will share in the life which Christ offers; in places it seems almost as though suffering is the preferred option.  At least that’s how some interpret it, and from this comes, in some traditions within the Church, something that almost seems to be a ‘celebration of suffering’, a glorification of suffering and persecution - and in some places a ‘death cult’ which embraces and delights in suffering as somehow making a person a ‘better Christian’.  This carries on today in those who seek to claim persecution, even within the freedoms of Western society, as those who enjoy absolute freedom - and in many cases tax breaks - in the practise of their religion seem to expect Christianity to enjoy a place of privilege and superiority even within secular society.

But the letters of the early Church were not written to create or celebrate suffering, they were written to encourage those who were suffering, and to assist those who were enduring great trials to find meaning within that suffering. The writers were seeking to offer a persecuted Church hope in the pain that they were going through due to their commitment to Christ. It became that suffering became a badge of honour: for endurance in the face of persecution, remaining faithful to Christ even in through torture and martyrdom. And in the face of condemnation from the authorities, religious and secular, it was important that Christians had that sense of their suffering being within and beside God;that God did not abandon them in their suffering.

Now we can take our inspiration from the faithfulness of those early Christians - but we do not need to celebrate suffering, instead we are called to do all that we can to allieviate suffering. We are not to create persecution complexes, but to support those who are persecuted for their faith, or colour, or sexuality, or gender identity, or poverty, or riches, or whatever those in power use to put others down.  As people of any faith, or none, we are called to be those who speak out against suffering, and to stand with the suffering and persecuted.

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