For centuries after he had been executed and raised from death many of Jesus’ followers hoped to suffer persecution as he had. They believed that dying as Jesus had died would unite them intimately to him and his Father. They took Luke’s Gospel literally when it quoted Jesus saying that following him meant carrying one’s own cross as he had.
To this day some persist in believing that suffering is what Jesus was all about. They believe that God wants our suffering as well. How strange to find such thinking in a faith that views God as the loving Creator of life and his human presence on earth his assurance that we would “have life and have it more abundantly.” [Jn10:10]
Who would come to the church to prepare for marriage If they found a pastor who told them that the point of getting married was to suffer with each other and with their children so that, one day, they could enter heaven. (It would make finding an available parish hall a lot easier though!)
Without a doubt there’s suffering in the Christian Way. There’s suffering in marriage and parenting, civil society and every human bond. The suffering is not the point, however. Suffering is accepted when love, joy and the future make it unavoidable.
It’s life and the future of life that moves people into a commitment to one another and to their community. It’s life and the future of life that moves people to embrace Christian faith.
The hardships that adherents to faith endure, the hardships that anyone endures in the effort to make life better touch and strengthen us. We honor them as an inspiration.
The point of enduring suffering, however, is the future of life, the delight and excitement and love of life. That’s what it was for Jesus. That is what it is for us. Everything in our faith is oriented to making the commitment to life – to every life – deeper and stronger and more joyous.