Reading: 2 Timothy 1: 8-14
“Join with me in suffering for the gospel”, Paul says to Timothy. “Take up your cross and follow me”, says Jesus. This idea that we too will suffer for our faith is a common refrain in the New Testament. While most of us will certainly not face the cross like Jesus or be beaten and imprisoned like Paul, each of us will be called upon to willingly suffer for our faith. To sacrifice is at the root of our faith.
Death and imprisonment do not threaten the typical Christian in the 21st century. While we must acknowledge that this reality exists for some Christians in our world today, for most of us the suffering we are called to is of a different nature. Some of the suffering we face will be caused by our faith. For example, at times the choices to abstain from things or activities may bring a little persecution our way. At other times choosing to speak up for one dealing with injustice or to stand up for one being bullied or abused may draw some negative attention our way. Faith and following the way of Christ can lead to public suffering.
Our faith can also lead to more private suffering. When we choose to give away or provide food or clothing or shelter to one in need it is at a cost to ourselves. We live with less so another can have some. When we choose time with God or church or family over work or some other secular pursuit we are sacrificing wealth or popularity or promotion. This too can bring suffering. When we choose to befriend or engage the outcast or ostracized or to walk with someone who is struggling in life, we sacrifice time and energy and may also open ourselves up to ridicule or persecution or some other form of suffering. Faith calls us to live God with all we are and to love neighbor as Christ first loved us. Faith asks us to place self after God and others.
As we live out our faith may we be willing to suffer and sacrifice so that all may come to know and experience Christ’s love, hope, and mercy through our extravagant love and servant’s sacrifice.