Suffering for Love

by | Jul 27, 2015 | 8 Persecuted

1397313953x1d0fBlessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10).
After the previous blessing of the peacemakers, you see this Beatitude coming.  Making peace means neither avoiding conflict nor using force to keep the rabble down.  It means reaching out as Jesus did to welcome strangers and restore broken relationships.  But people get marginalized and lines get drawn in the sand because somebody wants it that way, usually somebody with the clout to make life difficult for those who disturb the status quo.  So Jesus does not stop with blessing the peacemakers.  He blesses those who face retaliation for reaching out.
This required no explanation for the early Christians.  A fringe sect at odds with the religious authorities and secular powers, they knew the risk when they joined.  But as a privileged, white American male Christian living most of my life in the 20th and 21st century American South, perhaps I should graciously pass on this blessing and defer to lovers of God who suffer more.
That would be a mistake.  First, despite much change in two millennia since Jesus offered this blessing from the mount, the essentials remain the same.  The powers-that-be still resist peacemaking in their fight for the status quo, often doing so in Jesus’ name.  If I humbly conclude that I don’t qualify for this blessing, I would likely leave the risky work of peacemaking to others. Safe in the pew, I would ease my conscience with weekly ceremonial gestures to Christ and others who died building a bridge for me.  I find that unacceptable.
Embracing the identity of the persecuted does not mean that I should sell all I have and give the money to the poor in a masochistic test of faith.  But loving others as Christ loves me will inevitably lead to pain.  It will lead to my particular cross.
If you share my challenge, start with a look at your suffering.  Do you suffer for love?  Dedicate your love and your suffering to God.  If you haven’t thought of it as a way of loving God or obeying God’s command to love, try thinking of it that way now.  Put the story of your love and your suffering in a new frame, step back and look, and then see what God has been doing all along.
And if you suffer for something other than love, perhaps your anxieties or appetites or errant ways, dedicate your suffering to God.  Ask God to redeem your suffering and use it for love.  Using it for love may mean helping you make amends, share what you learn with others, grow in gratitude, or whatever God invites you to do.  God took our crucifixion of Christ and used it to save us.  God will certainly take your suffering for whatever reason and use it too for love.  That’s what God does.
 

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