I attended a 48-hours prayer meeting a couple of years back in Stockholm, and during a worship session a dear friend of mine approached me, asking me to pray for her so that she may receive the same passion for the poor that the Lord has given me. I was so glad that this was what she wanted, but as I started praying I realized that it would be impossible for her to have the same passion as I have without feeling the pain and suffering of making sacrifices, knowing more about the horrible face of poverty and realizing how many it is that do not get help.
This was why I became an activist in the first place – I realized that innocent people were dying while I was playing video games and dreamt of getting a car and a house. I just prayed that God would make it impossible for my friend to close her eyes to the suffering of the poor, and that she would partake in their suffering.
I don’t know if she ever got the same passion for them as I have, at least she’s not revealing it as clearly on Facebook 🙂 But there and then I think we both realized that this was truly what was necessary for passion. When we follow Christ, a cross is always attached. As He Himself said:
“Whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple… suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” (Luke 14:27, 31-33)
Basically, Jesus says that if you’re not willing to be tortured and killed and give up all your stuff for Him, you shouldn’t even try following Him. You know, that’s like entering a battle you’re gonna lose (it’s a mind-bending parable really – if you want to live you’re like a king who dies in war, but if you want to die you’e like a king who survives peacefully). Christians who aren’t called to suffering and sacrifices do not exist.
At the same time, Christians are called to alleviate suffering. Just a few chapters earlier, Jesus sent out His disciples to heal the sick, cast out demons and proclaim the Gospel of eternal life in the Kingdom of God. In Matthew 25 He says that those who get to Heaven are those who feed, clothe, visit and love the poor and broken that are Jesus’ brothers and sisters.
Christians are thus called to suffer while stopping others from suffering. Which isn’t strange since we follow the guy who suffered on the cross to alleviate our suffering; to bring us healing and eternal life. “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering… and by his wounds we are healed.” (Is 53:4-5) That’s the One you’re following if you’ve signed up for this, and guess what? “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” (1 John 2:6). See, you get to suffer for others as well, just like Jesus! Peter says this more explicitely:
If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called,because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:20-21)
This is why I prayed that my friend would suffer when she wanted to alleviate the suffering of the poor. Compassion means to suffer a common passion with others (in fact, the Swedish word for compassion literary translates into “co-suffering”). That’s what Jesus calls us to. If you don’t like it, you’re following the wrong guy.
This article is part of a MennoNerds Synchro-Blog reflecting on suffering during the Lent season of 2015. To read more articles in this series, go to http://mennonerds.com/tag/mennonerds-lent-2015/. To find out more about MennoNerds in general, go to http://mennonerds.com/about.