Graduations, Splits and Suffering
We’re in Orlando, Florida this weekend to support my brother-in-law, Andrew Litke, as he graduates from Reformed Theological Seminary. Consequently, my brother, Jared, also graduates from seminary (Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) in Wake Forest, NC. I’m proud of these 2 guys. They’re both men of God and they’re seeking to follow His leadership for their family, ministry, and life. Way to go guys!
As is common in our family gatherings, conversations regarding theological ideas seem to rise to the surface frequently. This afternoon the issue was denominational schisms and points of division. Our conclusion? Most of them are superficial and completely non-essential. Though undoubtedly there have been theological issues such as the inerrancy of Scripture that have rightly divided us and have rightly warranted a separation, the majority are petty and superfluous.
With a tone of sarcasm and yet seriousness at the same time, one of Andrew’s friends spoke up and said, “What we need in this country is a good dose of persecution!” And I think he’s right. Our generation knows little, if not nothing of what it means to suffer for the cause of Christ. And without question, persecution among believers has been the great equalizer throughout generations and cultures, bridging … no, eliminating the ridiculous barriers that we erect under the guise of faithfulness to the call. Again, sometimes faithful commitment to orthodoxy has been the case (i.e. the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago, or the Baptist resurgence 30 years ago). But most of the time, they’ve been merely a front for a misguided commitment to an apparent calling, but what is, in reality, one of the pinnacles of religious self-centeredness and pharisaism.
Ironically, this week I’m reading a compilation of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s sermons, letters and writings called Meditations on the Cross. One excerpt regarding suffering and persecution deserves to be quoted here for some much-needed food for thought. He says,
It is infinitely easier to suffer in obedience to a human order than in the freedom of one’s own, personal, responsible deed. It is infinitely easier to suffer in company than alone. It is infinitely easier to suffer publicly and with honor than out of the public eye and in disgrace. It is infinitely easier to suffer through the engagement of one’s physical being than through the Spirit. Christ suffered in freedom, alone, and out of the public eye and in disgrace, in body and soul, and likewise subsequently many Christians along with him.