Standing with Christ

Standing with Christ

• Men’s ministry this Saturday at 8:00a; our own Jim Helm is speaking. Breakfast is graciously provided by Melanie Carlson and her dad (Drew). Officer prayer for the congregation is at 7:00a. All officers are invited.

• Some thoughts on Lent and sharing in the sufferings of Christ, an idea common to Paul (1 Thess 1:6; 3:2-3; 2 Cor 1:5; 4:7-18; Rom 8:17; Gal 6:17; Col 1:24; Phil 1:29; 3:8-10). Two of these cut a bit deeper than the others. In Gal. 6:17 Paul says, “from now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus,” and in Col. 1:24 he says, “now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.

• The Galatians text follows a section in which Paul speaks of persecution and those who try to avoid it and find some easier version of following Jesus. When he says “I bear on my body the marks of Jesus,” he seems to mean he’s done with all the maneuvering people go through to avoid affliction and has instead embraced identification with Christ in his suffering. This seems to have allowed him to turn some spiritual corner and now “the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” He’s still living here on earth, but in a different way. (More on this by Gordon Fee below.)

• The Colossians text seems more difficult, but it may be more simple. His comment, “I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” is probably just the turn of a phrase. He seems to be saying, “there is a role of suffering for the Church that Christ has assigned uniquely to me, and I am fulfilling that.” He’s implying the same for us. We have a role to play on behalf of the Church and, all things being equal, it’s going to cost us something.

• Lent in the Roman Catholic tradition has always had overtones of penitence and self-denial. But since we believe the cost of sin was borne entirely by Christ on the cross, notions of debt and payment are less powerful for us. Still powerful, though, is the notion of standing in solidarity with Christ, bearing the marks of Jesus and embracing whatever suffering may come to us in service to his Body, the Church. This may be as close as we ever get to staying by Jesus in his scourging, or hanging next to him on a cross. This intimacy, this sense of being bound together in the great cause that transcends all others, is what Paul is after when he says, “I want to know Christ… and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Php 3:10).

• In his commentary on this passage, Gordon Fee says, “it is not just any kind of present suffering to which Paul refers in the preceding phrase, but to those which in particular express participation in Christ’s sufferings; and the aim, as well as the character, of such suffering is to ‘become like him in his death,’ which almost certainly means suffering that is in some way on behalf of the gospel, thus for the sake of others, since no other suffering is in conformity to his.”

• Whatever you may be considering as a focus for Lent (Scripture requires nothing, by the way), I think Fee offers good counsel. Let it be “on behalf of the gospel, thus for the sake of others, since no other suffering is in conformity to his.” So perhaps rather than giving something up for Lent, it might be a good season to take on some practice of service, some expression of love and care for someone else — something costly that allows you to join in the mission and character of Jesus. It’s so often here—in a secret, costly decision to follow Christ—that we are deeply and privately bound to him. And when we are in that place, we are his and he is ours. Life on earth offers nothing better than this.

Pastor Eric