Our Affections and Our Suffering

By Dudley Hall Published on March 23, 2015

DUDLEY HALL — “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church…” Colossians 1:24 (ESV).

One might think Paul was losing his mind. He is actually saying that he rejoices to suffer for the sake of those who hear his message. That certainly is not the common sentiment of Christians today. We seem to recoil at inconvenience and discomfort that doesn’t even approach suffering. But the original concept of suffering as displayed by our Lord was much different.

Truly it has a mysterious dynamic. How does suffering fit into the victory we have in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection? Well, of course we aren’t talking here about suffering for our own selfishness and sin. When we choose to neglect the order of God, we find ourselves kicking against the goads of righteous boundaries. There is no rejoicing in these except the rebuke we receive that might remind us of the pain of disobedience. Paul is identifying with the afflictions of Jesus — and He never had corrective afflictions. It seems that Paul is saying that he was continuing the path of suffering which releases blessings on the church.

We know from many other scriptural references that we (Paul or us) cannot add to what Christ accomplished at the cross. But we can continue to display a kind of affection that suffers when demanding our own rights is an option we choose to forego. It was Christ’s love for us that caused him to go to the cross. He had every right to destroy sinners and return to his former glory. There was no legal demand for him to die . . . except that he loved us and suffered in our place so that justice could be satisfied. He demonstrated the kind of love (affection) that transforms. It is the kind that Paul described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

This kind of love never fails. It changes people at a level that nothing else will. Law can expose. Flesh can improve. Self-will can strategize, but only love can change people. After all, the whole purpose of representing Christ to the world is to offer the hope of change. So, as our purpose aligns with the purpose of God, we too can begin to view suffering in a different light. Whatever love requires is our lot. If it involves suffering so that others can see love displayed, we get to be the billboard that shows it.

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