By Søren Kierkegaard
[Jesus said,] “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.” — Matthew 10.22
What is decisive in Christian suffering? It lies in the fact that it is voluntary–“on account of the Word” and “for righteousness’ sake.” The disciples left everything to follow Christ. Their sacrifice was voluntary. Someone may be unfortunate to lose everything he owns and has; but he has not given up the least thing. Not like the Apostles! Herein lies the confusion.
In today’s Christianity we take ordinary human suffering and turn it into a Christian example. “Everyone has a cross to bear.” We preach unavoidable human trials into being Christian suffering. How this happens is beyond me! To lose everything and give up everything are not synonymous. To the contrary, the difference between them is infinite.
If I happen to lose everything, this is one thing. But if I voluntarily give up everything, choose danger and difficulties, this is something entirely different. When this happens it is impossible to avoid the trial that comes with carrying Jesus’ cross. This is what Christian suffering means, and it is a whole scale deeper than ordinary human adversity.
Nowadays we can become or live as Christians in the most pleasant way and without ever risking the slightest possibility of offense. We can continue to make ourselves comfortable by scraping together the world’s goods, as long as we stir into the pot what is Christian as a seasoning, an ingredient that almost serves to refine our enjoyment of life. This kind of Christianity is but a religious variation of the world’s unbelief, a movement without budging from the spot.
Christ unabashedly speaks of what would await his disciples when they witnessed to him in the world. The possibility of offense consists in being persecuted, ridiculed, cast out from society, misunderstood, and finally put to death.
Whether you experience adversities in life, whether things perhaps go downhill for you, though you as a Christian will most assuredly bear these sufferings patiently, unlike many others in the world, however patiently you bear them, this suffering is not yet akin to Christ’s suffering.
To suffer Christianly is not to endure the inescapable but to suffer evil at the hands of people because you voluntarily will and endeavor to do only the good: to willingly suffer on account of the Word and for the sake of righteousness. This is how Christ suffered. This alone is Christian suffering.
*Abridged from Søren Kierkegaard’s writings, compiled in Provocations by Charles E. Moorein.