Suffering and God’s Glory

Ajith Fernando suggests that “Christianity is like sandalwood that imparts its sweet fragrance to the ax that cuts it without doing it any harm in return.
For three days (while I was in Thailand) Fernando took us to Colossians 1:24 and helped us consider a topic that is generally unfamiliar and certainly unpopular among US Christians: SUFFERING. Oh, we may talk about suffering and, when we do, we often connect our suffering to our faith inappropriately — but mostly we don’t understand suffering. My opinion.

The statement I shared above came on the third day when he was relating ways that suffering helps demonstrate the Gospel. How can we understand the glory of Jesus without seeing it through his death? The holy love of God was most completely expressed in suffering — his, his Son’s and ours.

If, as Christians, we only encounter (confront) people at the place where their beliefs clash with ours, we will spend our time condemning “them” for wrong behavior, wrong thinking, and wrong worship. When we are in this place of judgement, the world sees us as arrogant. And our argument is simply that we are right. But is that enough?
Fenando suggests that as we join people in their suffering we demonstrate Christ to them in a way that they can understand. That only in this posture will we overcome the view of the world that we are arrogant.
This was but one point on one day… I am still considering what his teaching means for me. I’m coming back to it now that I’ve been home for a while because I know I did not get all of the soul-nutrition out of it the first time. Yes, like a cow chewing its cud. I find myself asking the question I often ask, “So what?” If this is true, what does that mean for how I think and how I live?

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