Friday, 14 August 2009

How Much He Must Suffer For My Name

Anglican David Ould has an excellent reflection on the little-noticed text of Acts 9:16 here.

Of particular note is this line:
This attitude to suffering is not masochistic or stoic but a quite
counter-cultural embracing of a whole lifestyle because it mirrors that of Jesus.

'Tis but a small step from that insight to monasticism.


David Ould said...

thanks for the link.

Can I ask. How do you think it's "a small step ... to monasticism"?

GAB said...

Hello David. Thanks for dropping by.

Its a small step from this attitude to suffering to monasticism because at the heart of both lies the insight that a relationship with Christ involves not only intellectual assent or emotional involvement but genuine union with Him, characterised by imitation of and participation in Him as He is. For us as Christians, the kenosis is supposed to be paradigmatic. God's self-emptying for us, even to the extent of death on a cross, was not a last-ditch effort when all other possibilities of salvation had been exhausted, but rather a fundamental revelation of Who God is. To be a "partaker of the divine nature" (2 Pet 1:4) means to be like that.

Nor is imitation of the kenosis (either by suffering or by renunciation or whatever) something arbitrary but a pursuit of greater intimacy with Christ. If I live a comfortable life as a Christian, even if this does not involve anything sinful, I have placed a barrier between myself and Christ, because God in Christ did not pursue comfort, and the pursuit of comfort and ease is alien to Him. This is what Paul is talking about in Phil 2:5-8 ('Let the same mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, Who being in the form of God..etc."). This is also what Luther is talking about when he speaks of the theology of glory and the theology of the cross. As you say, none of that sits very comfortably with the kind of "health and wealth" gospel that is preached by some.

Monasticism, in its essence, seeks to incarnate that to the fullest extent possible this side of heaven (this of course, goes for friars as well, though their focus is in some ways more explicitly evangelistic). It is precisely a lived kenosis.

If you are interested, I have blogged previously on this topic here: ( and here: (