17 November 2013Luke 21:5-19
“By your endurance you will gain your souls.” (v. 19)
At a quick glance, this is hardly the most encouraging of Jesus' speeches: your family will hate you, your friends will turn against you, the things you value will be laid to waste, and war will overshadow everything. But Jesus tells his disciples that their own fate will be secure, because of their own firm stance. Sometimes I can feel overwhelmed by the expectations of our sufferings, and the feeling of guilt that I do not suffer at all as someone who follows Jesus. There are lots of things to say about this, but I want to focus on one issue ... We often talk about the sufferings that this passage predicts for us, but the times when I feel low are either caused by my own actions, or by the things that affect all of humanity: illness, loneliness, death. I can say that I am a fortunate person, because none of these things are caused by my Christian faith. I also believe that the suffering caused by these previously mentioned possibilities can be reduced with a knowledge of a God who knows and loves us.
What can be said about the section of this passage that suggests we might find improvement in our existences thanks to sticking with God, and God's way of life? John Wesley himself firmly believed that all of us are saved instantly by Christ's sacrifice, but also that our actions should still reflect the fact that we can never fully live up to God's standard, and so we should still strive for perfection. What if life's persecution of all of us (not just as Christians, but as humans) can be alleviated to some degree by living as God intended? Of course, hard times will still hit us, and life often seems to throw the hardest trials at those who are the best people, but a life lived in Christ's image may well prepare us for the hardest times, and make them a bit easier if and when they do come. Jesus of course lived the best life, and though his struggles were enormous, he never shifted away from what he believed a holy existence to be. This might be our calling too.
- What might a life 'striving towards God's perfection' look like?
- If we can't understand our suffering, especially when we live good lives, how can Jesus' example help us?
- Although it's easy to be overwhelmed by how persecuted some Christians are, what might be positive things to do in response?