Thursday, August 1, 2013

Pain And Death

The religion of these Christians teaches servitude...
...utter obedience...
...torture as an honor...
...pain and death as a reward at the end of it all...
- Northlanders Vol Three, "Lindisfarne" Part 1
by Brian Wood and Dean Ormston

This follows the same theme of a recent post. The teaching of Christ is an inversion of expectations just as Jesus was an inversion of messianic expectations. Sometimes we can grasp this. Sometimes sacrificing our own time and energy in the service of others seems reasonable.

To a point.

I don't want to stretch myself too much or too often. I mustn't make a habit of it. Spending thousands of dollars on a week long missions trip will be lauded and encouraged. But don't you dare expect me to give money to the beggar I pass on the street every day on my way to work. Somehow we have conditioned ourselves to believe that this life of Christian servitude is only applicable on rare occasions and when we have truly prepared ourselves for the effort.

Sometimes the daily, insignificant service can have the greatest impact.

But the great kicker is the line at the end: "Pain and death as a reward at the end of it all." This is the great inversion of messianic expectations. As Paul said in Philippians 1:21, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." We may go through great suffering and pain in our Christian service in this life, but we are still going to die. Instead of being dismayed by this inevitability, we can find hope that death is not the end. In Christ there is an eventual resurrection (though such resurrections is likely quite different from what much of mainstream American Christianity believes it will be).

However, and of course there was going to be this however, how often do we, do I, truly live as though to live is Christ and to die is gain? The news is filled with stories of Christian groups throwing hissy fits over every little issue as if it was the end of the world (and as if the end of the world, i.e. dying, wouldn't fall into the category of "gain"). The fact is we rarely behave this way. Christians have turned the faith away from a life of servitude and steered it into the streams of politics and economical well being. Christianity means getting our money's worth and our political agenda passed into law.

Servitude? Heh. Maybe one week every couple of years.

If I'm feeling generous.

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