April 20, the Thirty-Seventh Day of Lent

April 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.

-Hebrews 11.36-

As we look back across the chapter that we have been studying, we can see that the author has created a story arc for his audience. He began with creation, spoke of the patriarchs, continued on to the conquest of the Promised Land, alluded to more recent events in Israel’s history, and has now brought the story into contemporary time and space for his audience. He has demonstrated that God’s story intersects and merges with their story.

For the recipients of the letter to the Hebrews, this may have been hard to believe. The church struggled in the face of persecution during this time. Christians were seen as traitors, troublemakers, people who “rocked the boat.” Society often did not tolerate counter-culture behavior, and persecuted Christians as a result. The author of Hebrews is going to lengths to encourage his audience that, yes, their sufferings are part of God’s story.

This may be hard for those of us located in America to understand. We are fortunate to have religious freedom, and the worst persecution that we may endure will most likely not deprive us of honor, property, or life. Such was not the case for first-century Christians. We would also be remiss if we did not realize that such is not the case for many in the world during our time; many other nations do not welcome Christianity, forcing the church to go underground. For these churches, then and now, this verse strikes a poignant chord.

How can suffering be part of God’s story? While we recognize that God is at work to redeem the world we live in and set the wrongs right, it is apparent that this process is not complete. This is where we, as Christ-followers and God’s agents of redemption in the world, come in. It is part of our job as Christians to right the wrongs; yet, for doing these things, we will experience opposition. In fact, “opposition” may be somewhat of a mild term in light of what this verse describes: ridicule, torture, incarceration.

Just as our ability to do great works through God’s power is aided by our faith, our ability to withstand opposition comes from our faith as well. We remember that faith is not a rational, logical assent to a set of propositions, but rather a life that lives in complete trust and abandonment to God. Trust and abandonment will sometimes land us in places that we did not want to be in; however, trust and abandonment will also enable God to deliver us.

As we journey through Lent together, may our faith grow strong in suffering.

“Dear Lord, please do not let me forget that suffering is part of the Christian life. Knowing this, I am better able to work as your agent in the world. Please sustain me during these times and help me to sustain others in their moments of trail. Wherever you call me, please help me to accept the situation and turn it over to you; but also, please help me to see past it and through it to your redemption. Amen.”

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