For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’s sake. For it is the God who said, “Light will shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way but not crushed, perplexed but not driven to despair, persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed, always carrying around in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For we who are living are always being handed over to death for Jesus’s sake, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us but life in you.
Yesterday the post was on anticipated persecution, and much more could be said on that. Many of us have experienced nothing at all like the persecution so many followers of Christ (and others) face in too many places in the world. In fact to say that we’ve been persecuted at all here in the United States to me seems more than a stretch.
But let’s say we face more of the norm, that we as followers of Christ are confronted with some kind of authoritarian rule that demands our full allegiance and forbids allegiance to any other. When you read the New Testament, the passage above, and Mark’s gospel account for example, you’ll find that there’s no escape for the follower of Christ from the way of the cross. That is the only way in Christ. And that might conceivably give us some kind of martyr or persecution complex, and make us down in the mouth, kind of like groveling through life with no joy.
The pain, the suffering, the struggle, yes indeed the spiritual conflict, that’s all present and undeniable, and to pretend it doesn’t exist is to deny reality, or perhaps try to escape into something other than following Christ. But this is where the resurrection life and power of Christ is found, and all that accompanies that. Only there.
God will give us the help and grace needed to meet whatever situation we’re in. And this is not meant to be just an individual thing, but something we’re in together with other followers of Jesus. It is the way of life that is in Christ Jesus. A path of suffering and glory. Not something we can set aside. And not something we’re to despise but learn to embrace. In and through Jesus.