Sunday, February 20, 2011

Religion of Suffering?

There is a widespread misunderstanding among the heterodox, in which suffering is considered to be some sort of antidote or counterweight to sin. One suffers in order to make up for ones past sins or those of others. "Voluntary expiatory suffering", by Christ and/or by us in union with Him, is thought somehow to be pleasing to God, as if it were the opposite of sin, helping to even up the celestial ledger.

This notion is illustrated in something a Roman Catholic saint wrote, quoted in this entry in a Catholic blog entitled, "Joining God in penance and suffering".

When someone desires to suffer, it is not merely a pious reminder of the suffering of the Lord. Voluntary expiatory suffering is what truly and really unites one to the Lord intimately. When it arises, it comes from an already existing relationship with Christ. For, by nature, a person flees from suffering. And the mania for suffering caused by a perverse lust for pain differs completely from the desire to suffer in expiation. Such lust is not a spiritual striving, but a sensory longing, no better than other sensory desires, in fact worse, because it is contrary to nature. Only someone whose spiritual eyes have been opened to the supernatural correlations of worldly events can desire suffering in expiation…

Only those who are saved, only children of grace, can in fact be bearers of Christ’s cross. Only in union with the divine Head does human suffering take on expiatory power.


It's actually a slur upon God's kindness, compassion, and love, to think He is pleased to see us suffer. He is pleased to see us love and obey, even if that brings suffering, but the suffering itself is not the point.  The love is, together with the obedience love brings.  Obedient love, not suffering, is the real opposite of sin. 

Good News:   God's forgiveness - freely offered, not in return for for anything else, especially suffering! - is what truly expiates (undoes) our guilt.  And it's Christ's Resurrection that expiates our death. 

Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death
And upon those in the tombs bestowing Life!


s-p said...

Amen. "God does not desire the death of the sinner" nor does he require his suffering in order to attain forgiveness.

DebD said...

This is one of the themes coming from the historical fiction book I'm reading. I'm finding it very frustrating (and hard to believe that 9th century Christians taught this).

The other side of that coin is those that teach that the reason one is suffering is because of unrepentant sin. I knew Christian lady who was told this after her 3yr old died suddenly of an undiagnosed heart condition. Such a sad, sad thing. Sometimes it is amazing that people remaind Christians after such "comfort" they receive from their Brothers and sisters in Christ. Lord have mercy!

Anam Cara said...

Wondering what book DebD is reading.