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ST.

FRANCIS
M A G A Z I N E
By Arab Vision & Interserve Vol 7, No 1| February 2011

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www.stfrancismagazine.info

FROM THE EDITORS DESK


Dear friends This issue of St Francis Magazine focuses on risk and suffering in the church of Christ in the Arab World and its mission in this world. It contains articles that were originally delivered in a conference that was held in September 2010 in an Arab country. In the next issue (April 2011) we will have more articles that were presented at this conference. One important outcome of this conference was a renewed resolve by expatriate missionaries in the Arab World to stand by the churches of the Arab World, and not escape to safety as soon as serious problems loom for the church. It is important to underline that as missionaries, we are part and parcel of the churches in the world and we are not interested in a hit and run approach. This issue of St Francis Magazine is the first of the seventh year. We are glad with so many readers, and we continue to look for more writers, as we want to stimulate discussion among missionaries and missiologists about how to do mission in the Arab World. Your comments are always welcome. The Lord be with you John Stringer

St Francis Magazine Vol 7, No 1 | February 2011

A THEOLOGY OF RISK AND SUFFERING IN THE GOSPELS


By John R. Philip 1 1 Introduction Generally, words such as risk, suffering and persecution sound unpleasant in our hearing. Usually, they have been interpreted with synonyms like pain, evil, disaster, destitution and bad fortune. Hopes will be crushed, dreams will be shattered and disappointment will prevail when suffering finds its way to a humans life. As a result, our human wisdom has taught us to avoid, minimize and seek to annihilate suffering at all cost. Christians also are not immune to human suffering. The Bible leaves no doubt that all human beings experience suffering in various ways. However, the only distinguishing factor that signifies Christians is that in their suffering they can find hope, comfort, peace and tranquility. The Scriptures give a great hope and assurance for Christians when they suffer for the sake of the gospel. Peter exhorts the scattered and persecuted Jewish believers to rejoice and give praise to God in the midst of their pain. God in his great mercy has given them new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Pet. 1:3). Nonetheless, not all Christians share the same positive view of suffering. In fact, within the Christian community there has been little agreement on the role of suffering in a believers life. For some Christians, suffering and pain are immediately seen as a result of sin and disobedience. For others, suffering lacks a sense of purposefulness and direction. In his book A Christian Attitude Towards Suffering and Pain, Pukuta N. Mwanza has accurately observed that, Among Evangelicals there is generally a split between those who consider suffering to be a normal part of the Christian life and those

John Philip is an Arab Christian who ministers in the Arab World.

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St Francis Magazine Vol 7, No 1 | February 2011

who are deeply convinced that Christians should not suffer at all.2 Both views hold onto only some biblical truth while ignoring the others. Therefore, the outcome is often an incomplete and rather inaccurate view of the topic. It is imperative that we free ourselves from our own biases as we try to examine the Scripture. As we do so, may God help us to see suffering from His perspective rather than our own. Why a theology of risk and suffering? Is there a legitimate need for a theology of risk and suffering? Does our understanding of risk and suffering affect the way we hold on to our faith and the way we practice missions today? The answer to all these questions is certainly affirmative. It has been said that right theology will always lead to right conduct. Human behavior is usually determined by what people believe or perceive to be true. Besides, having a sound understanding of suffering will enable us to grow in our faith so we can see suffering as something good. Alister McGrath, in his book Suffering, affirms that, In a logical or philosophical sense, the fact of suffering is neutral. The important thing is what we make of it both in terms of how we understand it, and how we allow it to affect us. Here is where theology helps; it allows us to see suffering in a positive light, as a means of growth rather than something meaningless.3 Thus, the need for a biblically-sound theology of risk and suffering should neither be overlooked nor underestimated. Instead, such a topic should rather receive urgent attention from the Church, the body of Christ, at all its ministerial levels. Which gospel did Christ bring? Did he bring us a gospel of everlasting glory without pain? Or did he bring a gospel of suffering, persecution, and tears? Many immediately respond to these questions by arguing that Christ has come so that we may have life and have it to the full. As a result, such believers expect a life with no pain but only health, wealth and prosperity. Still others only see the hardships and difficulties that Christians have to go through and conclude that Christs gospel is all about pain and distress. Conse-


2 Pukuta N. Mwanza, A Christian Attitude Towards Suffering and Pain (Tonbridge, UK: Sovereign World, 2001), p. 9. 3 Alister McGrath, Suffering (London, UK: Hodder & Stoughton, 1992).

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St Francis Magazine Vol 7, No 1 | February 2011

quently, they fail to see any glory in the gospel. Neither of these answers is precisely true. It is not a matter of either or, but both go together. Michael S. Horton asserts that, Christians have been given both the gospel of glory and the gospel of suffering.4 In fact, there is no glory without suffering. Christ had to suffer his crucial death on the cross before he is ascended and seated at the right hand of the Most High. God sent His Son to the world to suffer and die and yet through his suffering a sinful world can be saved. Horton elaborates on this thought more reflectively:
Jesus knew why he came. It was not to help people find a little more happiness and success in life. In fact, his life was filled with suffering, under the long shadow of Calvary. For this purpose I have come, he said, referring to the cross (John 12:27). The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10). Ever since his temptation by Satan, Jesus had been offered glory without a cross, but it was a false promise, and thats why Jesus rebuked Peters attempt to dissuade him from the cross by saying, Get behind me, Satan; for your thoughts are the thoughts of men, not of God (Matthew 16:23). We can be greatly assured that Jesus embraced the cross and then entered his glory, instead of demanding glory first.5

2 Scope and Objectives The scriptural scope of this paper is the Gospels. Thus, we will focus and limit our discussion to what the Gospels say about suffering. Our main objective is to highlight some of the significant themes that related to suffering. In doing so, we will examine several passages from which we can glean some insights into the issue of risk and suffering. Such insights will help to shape our understanding and theology of risk and suffering. Special attention will be given to Jesus as the suffering servant. Hence, the causes of Christs suffering will be highlighted, as well as the way he dealt with and responded to suffering and persecution. Moreover, significant consideration will be given to Jesus teachings about suffering


4 Michael S. Horton, Suffering and a Theology of Glory, www.wscal.edu/faculty /wscwritings/horton.osteen/sufferingandtheologyglory.php (5 September, 2010). 5 Ibid.

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St Francis Magazine Vol 7, No 1 | February 2011

as a central theme throughout his teaching and preaching in the Gospels. In conclusion, we will attempt to discuss some of the implications that can be relevant and applicable within the context of missions. 3 Causes for Christs suffering in the Gospels 3.1 Essential part of his calling The four evangelists assure us with no doubt that Christs sufferings were an essential part of his calling. Basically, Christ suffered bearing the cost of obeying the will of the Father. Indeed, it was foretold long before his birth that Christ will suffer and die to redeem fallen humanity. Besides, there also have been many causes that attracted suffering and persecution to Jesus. It is not our intention here to explore Christs redemptive sufferings which he received from God the Father. But we shall limit our discussion to the sufferings he received from other fellow human beings. There was more than one cause that brought suffering and pain to Jesus life and ministry. In what follows, we will examine a few of these causes. 3.2 His Identity Since his birth, Jesus identity seemed to raise many questions, confusion and misunderstanding that resulted in much suffering and persecution. His identity did not only create confusion and perplexity for the society in which he lived, but even his own brothers could not truly understand who he was. Being fully divine and fully human is indeed beyond any human wisdom to fathom or to comprehend. A brief reflection on Mark 3: 20-35 provides an insightful overview of how much confusion people had regarding the identity of Jesus. In verses 20-21, Jesus own family were puzzled because of Jesus behavior and concluded that He is out of his mind. His family came to take charge of Him because they thought He was confused and possibly deranged and they were greatly worried about Him. The huge crowds, the miracles and the widespread reports about Jesus convinced them that something had to be done. They were

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St Francis Magazine Vol 7, No 1 | February 2011

probably thinking that Jesus must be controlled or else he will put them all to shame in their society. In Middle-Eastern society, ones reputation affects the entire family. This is why Jesus family was quite upset because of what Jesus was doing. However, the basic truth here is that even his own family did not truly understand Him.6 In verse 22 we still see another category of people that miserably failed to understand who Jesus was. These were the most theologically-enlightened group of people. These were the best and most influential leaders of the Jewish faith. These were the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem. Having seen for themselves the miraculous healing and exorcism that Jesus performed, they came to a conclusion, He is possessed by Beelzebub! The teachers of the law did not benefit much from their knowledge and study of Scripture. Because they were blinded by their own interest, they failed to recognize what God was doing among them. Ironically, they explain his ability to perform exorcisms by asserting that by the prince of demons he is driving out demons. Consequently, Jesus responded to this accusation by telling them a parable of a divided kingdom. He concluded in verse 29 by declaring Gods eternal judgment against those who blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. Marks additional note in verse 30, He said this because they were saying, He has an evil spirit suggests the depth of pain that Jesus felt at being misunderstood and verbally persecuted by this religious group.7 Furthermore, in verses 31-35, Mark carries on his narrative of the arrival of Jesus mother and brothers that he previously announced in verse 21. Acknowledging ones mother and brothers is an essential part of ones identity in Jewish society. Yet our Lord offered a different view that caused even more confusion and gave room for misunderstanding. Jesus confused people even more by his response to those who told him about his familys arrival. Jesus was not rude to his family; he simply used their concern as an opportu-


6 Warren Wiersbe, Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the New Testament (Wheaton, Ill:: Victor Books, 1997). 7 Ibid.

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nity to explain what it means to belong to the family of God. Gods children are closer to Jesus than even His own earthly family, for we are bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh.8 Who is this Jesus? was and still is the most perplexing question to the human mind. Indeed, there is no human wisdom or intellect that can answer this question apart from the aid of the Holy Spirit. In Matthew 16:13, Jesus asked his disciples, Who do people say the Son of Man is? Peters declaration, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God, was not his own, but it was the Holy Spirit who revealed it to him. To sum up, from Mark 3:20-35 we have seen that Jesus identity was a question for his own family as well as his own society. Nonetheless, while humans failed to recognize who Jesus was, the evil spirits did not. In Mark 3:11, the evangelist asserts that Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, You are the Son of God. 3.3 His claims Another reason for Jesus suffering was often because of his claims or what he revealed about himself. As Gods Son, the incarnated God and the anointed Messiah, Christ in many instances declared things that only brought confusion, perplexity, and even antagonism to his hearers. We shall highlight a few of these claims. In the seventh chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus, while teaching in the temple, made a number of claims that aroused the anger of the Jewish leaders. For instance, in verses 2829 Jesus said to the crowd: Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, but I know him because I am from him and he sent me. With this claim, Jesus declares His supremacy and superiority. He claims that He is not here on His own. He reveals that He Who sent Him is true. Also, he states that He knows God the Father because He is from Him and because He sent Him. Generally, such claims would cause much confusion and misunderstanding for everyone. But for the Jewish leaders, it did not only cause confusion, but disturbance

Ibid.

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and anger which led them to the point that the chief priests and the Pharisees sent the temple guards to arrest Him. Then, Jesus made another and claim about himself. In verse 35, he said, You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come. Once more, such a claim added more confusion to all those who were listening to him. On hearing this, they began to pose a few questions that showed how puzzled they were. In verses 3536 Mark records: The Jews said to one another, Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? What did he mean when he said, You will look for me, but you will not find me, and Where I am, you cannot come? Besides, there also have been many other claims Jesus made that caused much confusion. Some examples are found in the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John, I am the gate, (v. 7, 9) I am the good shepherd (v. 11) and I lay down my life for the sheep (v. 15). Moreover, the four gospels contain numerous occasions in which Jesus claimed many other things that culminated in the rejection of him and his teaching by the people. Without a doubt, all these claims invited persecution and rejection of many of the Jewish people. Such confusion here originates from lack of spiritual insight and divine wisdom. Those people only possessed their mental reasoning and human rationalization. Jesus claims can only be accepted and appreciated through the divine wisdom that comes from the Holy Spirit. Of course Jesus was very aware of the limitations of his audience. However, Jesus never compromised; instead he declared his claims in spite of any confusion they caused. Jesus knew that they might not be able to understand immediately what His claims were, but there would be a time when they would be able to understand. 3.4 His message Added to his identity, the message which Jesus proclaimed often caused perplexity and was either misunderstood or misinterpreted. Even Jesus own disciples repeatedly admitted their failure to per-

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ceive and comprehend the essence of Jesus message. On one occasion, the evangelist records that, On hearing it, many of his disciples said, This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it? (John 6:60) Human limitations restricted the disciples as well as the crowds from receiving and accepting the essence of Jesus message. Mark, in his opening chapter, reveals the message of Jesus, stating that, The time has come, he said. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news! (Mark 1: 15). Our Lords message was the gospel of the kingdom of God, or the gospel of God as some texts read. Christ preached the reign of God over mens hearts. The Good News which Christ brought was that sinful men can be set free from the controlling powers of Satan as they welcome and receive the reign of God upon their lives. Such a kingdom cannot be achieved through military victories or through human power. It can only be gained through true repentance and humility. Unfortunately, such a message was not well received by the majority of Jewish people. Besides, the message was misinterpreted because of the preconceived expectations of the Jewish people. Most of the Jews misunderstood and interpreted a sort of political revolution into the phrase kingdom of God, but that was not what Jesus had in mind at all. His kingdom has to do with His reign in the lives of His people; it is a spiritual realm and not a political organization.9 Nonetheless, blinded by their own expectations, the Jews failed to grasp the message that Jesus preached. 3.5 His actions In addition, Jesus actions were always unique and aroused antagonism and opposition. For instance he sleeps in the ship while everyone is terrified because of the storm (Luke 8: 22-23). Or He gets up very early in the morning to pray while it is still dark and everyone is asleep (Mark 1: 35). Or He challenges his disciples to offer something for the crowd to eat in a remote place when He is sure that they did not have enough for them (Mark 6: 37). Or He opens the


9 Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary: Mark 1:12 (n.p.: Victor Books, 1996), p. 105.

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eyes of the blind man, yet he does not keep Lazarus, his friend, from dying (John 11: 37). The list of such actions could go on without an end. The truth is that Jesus actions were often not only surprising but even shocking and ultimately would have caused many to question and oppose Jesus. Although Jesus went around doing good deeds everywhere, not everyone was happy with his actions. Indeed, throughout his life the voices of his opponents were much louder than the voices of those who stood by his side. In what follows, we shall examine a few situations in which Jesus actions were misinterpreted and consequently resulted in disapproval and opposition to him and his ministry. In Mark 5: 1-17, the evangelist records not only that Jesus healed a demon-possessed man and brought a remarkable transformation and newness to his life, but also tells us of how difficult it was for the people of that town to accept or appreciate what Jesus did. The people came out to see what happened when they heard the reports from the herdsmen. When they came, they saw the man who was once demon-possessed but now is set free, clean and in his right mind and also they were told about the pigs. They pleaded with Jesus to leave their town, which is a clear indication of their refusal to have Jesus in their midst. Certainly, the act which Jesus did in this passage is unquestionably according to the will of God who desires everyone to be saved. Nevertheless, the people could not see the value of setting free a demon-possessed man when they compared it to their material loss represented in the two thousand pigs that were drowned. What we see here is nothing but conflicting interests. Jesus interests were spiritual, eternal and aimed at restoring Gods reign over humanity. Conversely, the people of that town had very different interests that focused only on earthly materials and temporary gains. As a result, the people of that town did not welcome Jesus and asked Him to leave. They have determinedly refused the presence of the incarnated God in their midst. Jesus came to them and treated them with love. He spoke to them and permitted them to speak with Him, but they did not accept him and did not allow him

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to remain in their town. However, in spite of their rejection, Jesus still loved them and respected their will. In verse 18, Mark tells us, As Jesus was getting into the boat, implying that Jesus respected their request and left quietly with no blame or confrontation. Jesus, because of His actions, encountered a great deal of opposition and persecution from the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. In fact these were always on the top of the list of those who continuously and tirelessly opposed whatever Jesus did. The roots of their anger were their theological misconceptions. Jesus actions in the temple or on the Sabbath were extremely disturbing to them and often elevated their antagonism and increased their anger. Jesus miraculous healings and deliverances brought great joy to those who received them, but also it brought distress to these religious leaders. As a result, the Jewish leaders were alarmed by the danger that Jesus could cause them. There have been many occasions on which the religious leaders came into direct confrontation with Jesus. Once, they questioned Him why his disciples did not fast like John the Baptists disciples (Matt. 9:14). Another time, Jesus was accused of allowing His followers to eat with unwashed hands (Mk. 7:2-5). Furthermore, they also accused Jesus of eating with sinners and tax collectors (Matt. 9:11). Though the situations differ, the approach Jesus took to respond to them was usually the same. Jesus responded to their accusations by quoting the Scripture and rebuking them for their pride and hypocrisy (John 7:2124). The Pharisees took great pride in following the traditions of men instead of obeying the will of God. As a result, Jesus rebuked them to a degree that caused them to plan for his arrest and ultimate death. 3.6 His mission In addition, Jesus received so much pain from the people, especially His own disciples, as he disclosed the reason for his coming. The moment Jesus declared that he came to suffer and die, his disciples expressed their clear disapproval. It is important here to assert that Jesus did not come just to give us a good model. Even centuries before his birth, the prophet Isaiah described vividly the pain, suffer-

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ing and death of Gods Servant, the Messiah. Therefore, when Christ came to the earth, He did not intend to give us an example of how to deal with suffering. But Jesus embraced suffering as integral part of his mission. Suffering and dying was the essential aim of Jesus coming to the earth. This gives us, as Christians today, great joy as it has resulted in our salvation. However, it did not seem so for those who were contemporary to Jesus. Below, we shall limit our discussion to an important aspect regarding Jesus mission and the disappointment of the Jewish community in general and His own disciples in particular. During the time of Jesus life and ministry, the Jewish land had been conquered and had fallen under Roman rule. At this difficult time, the Jewish people, in great desperation, were expecting God to deliver them. Recalling the days of old, they were hoping that God would send a savior to restore their freedom and glory as Moses did for their ancestors in the past. Generally, the Jews were anticipating the coming of the Messiah who will defeat their enemies, free the people, and restore the autonomy of Israel as a nation. There were great hopes and numerous expectations regarding the coming of the Christ. However, the plan that Jesus revealed did not satisfy their hopes. He declared that He came to lay down His life and die in order to redeem us and restore the lost glory of God. This was a great shock for the Israelites. Just a week before, Jesus, riding a donkey, entered Jerusalem in a magnificent parade. Such a triumphal entrance gave them a hope that the king was going to take over the city of God and purify it from all their infidel enemies. With such a hope in mind, they marched with Jesus as He entered Jerusalem shouting out loud, Hosanna! They have been waiting for such a moment for so long, and they thought their dream would soon be realized. A week after that glorious event, the Savior would surrender himself, instead of asking the fire of God from heaven to fall upon his enemies in order to save himself from their hands. What a great shock! Instead of leading an army, Jesus gathered around himself twelve mostly insignificant men; and instead of planning how to take over the city of Jerusalem, he surrendered himself to the hands

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of the enemy. After being arrested, Jesus, obediently, is dragged to face unjust trial with no attempt at defense. He is mocked by the soldiers with no care to respond to their ridicule. He is stripped of his clothes and his head is covered with a crown of thorns instead of a victorious crown. Furthermore, Jesus is nailed to the cross instead of being enthroned on his royal throne. It certainly seemed a great failure in the eyes of everyone who saw the Lord lifted up on a tree. It must have been awfully discouraging when their Savior suffered such a cruel death. Even until the cross, some were probably still hoping that he would come down from the cross or perhaps an angel from heaven would come and save him, but there was no reprieve. From the point of view of the people of Israel the cross of Jesus was ultimate failure. They had never thought that the Christ would ever go in that direction. Indeed, they would have been right if the suffering and death of Jesus ended on the cross. But, praise be to God, the story of Jesus pain and suffering did not end there. After being in the grave for three days and three nights, the Lord rose victoriously, and the once-lost glory of God was restored. God has completed the salvation of humanity through the death and resurrection of Christ. Satan was defeated when the crucified Lord rose victoriously and death lost its grip over Jesus. In his resurrection Christ demolished the enmity between God and men. Reconciliation has been made by the blood of Him who came precisely for such a task. 4 The call to risk and suffering in the Gospels 4.1 Suffering is Gods plan for us So far we have examined several causes that invited suffering and persecution in the life of Jesus. In what follows we shall draw some theological concepts that can help us better shape our perspective of risk and suffering on the mission field. The concept of risk has its roots in our Christian walk and fellowship with Christ. No matter whether we are aware of it or not, risk always exists. Christian risk is neither a surprise nor an option,

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it is a reality. Nik Ripken argues that, Suffering is Gods plan for us.10 In the same way, Mwanza affirms that, Every Christian is involved in a serious battle against the kingdom of Satan. As soon as we are born again we get enrolled in a supernatural warfare.11 However, there are still many Christians who are helplessly unaware of such a battle. As a result they fail to recognize or acknowledge the reality of risk in their lives. Nonetheless, throughout the gospels, Christ has repeatedly emphasized the centrality of risk and suffering for those who choose to follow him. In fact, the four gospels illustrate a crystal-clear picture of the intended suffering and pain that await those who accept and respond to the call of Christ. 4.2 The cost of obeying Christs call There are numerous passages in which Jesus told of the cost to those who follow him and obey his call. On various occasions Jesus has explicitly taught about the cost of following Him and becoming His disciple. We shall focus our discussion on the passage found in Luke 9:5762. In this passage, the evangelist records for us the encounters of Jesus with three different men. They all have expressed some interest in the Rabbi who has proved his power to heal the sick and feed the hungry crowd. Two of them have expressed their desire to become disciples and followers of our Lord. They came calling Jesus Lord while they were unaware of what cost such a title would require. Nonetheless, in this passage, Jesus discloses at least three compelling requirements for following Him. In verses 57-58 Luke introduces a young man who was full of passion, coming to Jesus and offering Him an exciting pledge. Luke makes a note here that this took place during Jesus journey to Jerusalem on his way to the cross. It was along the road of suffering, pain and death. Yet here is a man coming to Jesus with such a great pledge, I will follow you wherever you go. Though the man makes a great resolution to follow Jesus wherever he goes, Jesus seems not to be excited at all about such a follower. Indeed,

10 Nik Ripken, Seminar Notes, in The Bleeding Edge: Managing Faith in the Midst of Persecution (n.p.: IMB, n.d.). 11 Mwanza, A Christian attitude to suffering and pain.

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seems not to be excited at all about such a follower. Indeed, he seems to be more discouraging than anything else. Jesus sought to test the motive of this young man and by so doing reveal what he requires of his followers. Risk and suffering were an essential part of Jesus call, not comfort and security. Therefore, Jesus warned, Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. To be qualified as a disciple of Christ, one should not be concerned about material comfort and security, but one must be willing to give up every material security. Jesus was saying precisely, To follow me, you should make me your basis of security rather than earthly gain or physical stability. Perhaps this young man had different expectations from following Jesus. He might have been attracted by the miraculous power of Jesus. The Scripture does not tell anything about his motives, but from Jesus response we easily recognize that this young man did not have the right motive when he expressed his desire to become a disciple. Though his pledge seems sincere, Jesus makes it clear that following him will not give him the comfort or security which he expects. He who wants to follow Jesus should not expect an easy and secure life, but rather a life that is full of challenges and difficulties. In verses 59-60 Luke presents another encounter of a young man with Jesus. He said to another man, Follow me. But the man replied, Lord, first let me go and bury my father. Jesus said to him, Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God. One could assume that Jesus has seen some good qualities in this young man; therefore, he invited the young man to follow him. It is indeed a great honor to be called by a great Rabbi like Jesus. But unfortunately, this man did not seem to be ready to receive Jesus invitation. Jesus certainly emphasized the priority of discipleship over family obligations. But the young man seemed to be more concerned with his family duties than obeying Jesus call. In his reply, Lord, first let me go and bury my father, this young man shows his desire to fulfill the family obligations that are expected from him. Besides, he thought he could fulfill his obligations first and still obey Jesus at any other time. Such a person is dis-

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qualified from being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Making Gods kingdom top priority is a prerequisite for those who want to follow Jesus. We should be willing to place our relationship with him on top of any other relationship. In verses 6162, Luke concludes with another man who came to Jesus and volunteered to be his disciple. He said, I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family. This man seems to be more careful to maintain his relationships while following Christ. However what Jesus requires from him is complete commitment, single-mindedness and focus. Jesus replied, No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God. What Jesus requires here is complete submission and undivided dedication to his call. Those who follow Jesus should be single-minded and avoid anything that could distract them or hinder them from complete obedience to the Lords call. Our love for Jesus should surpass any other love. From these three encounters we can recognize the centrality of risk and suffering in Christs teaching and in His call to discipleship and ministry. Risk is not a surprise and suffering is expected because Jesus told us what it will cost to obey His call. 4.3 The concept of the cross in a Christians life In Matthew 16:20-26, the evangelist presents a vivid picture of the risk and suffering that should be expected by those who follow and serve Jesus. Jesus emphasizes another aspect of the cost to following him; this is the concept of the cross. A cross has been a symbol of suffering, shame and death for a long time. Naturally, we are prone to avoid its pain, but here Jesus makes clear that his disciples must be willing to deny themselves and take up the cross and follow him. Jesus says, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. It was this mind which was in Christ Jesus, who thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Phil 2:5-7). A. S. Aldworth, in his book Gospel of Sufferings, ponders and reflects on this truth:

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Such was the pattern, and such must the following be; even though it be weary and toilsome to deny oneself, a heavy cross to take up, a heavy cross to drag, yet is it, as the pattern requires, to be borne in obedience unto death, so that the follower, though he may not die on the cross, still resembles his pattern in dying with the cross on him.12

4.4 The paradox of the yoke In Matthew 11:2829, Jesus declares, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Verses 28 and 29 are not two separated or unrelated calls. It is one call which has two sides. The first tells us of the eternal peace and undisturbed rest we can have in Jesus when we come in faith and believe in him. The second tells us of the cost to be paid and the suffering to be expected. Very often we quote with great joy and assurance verse 28. We always remember Jesus invitation for those who are tired, promising to give them rest. However, verse 29 does not have the same popularity as verse 28 because we do not like to consider the possibility that we may have to suffer. What did Jesus mean by yoke? A yoke is a burden, a heavy load that is often laid on the shoulders of an animal laboring in the farm. Using this analogy, Jesus once more emphasizes the burden and toilsome labor that his call entails. He challenges those who would be his disciples to remember that though his yoke is heavy, his burden is light. In another way, Jesus was saying that though the suffering will be painful, those who trust him will overcome their pain and be able to see the glory of God in the midst of their suffering. How can the burden be light since the suffering is heavy? The answer is that Jesus will be ever present with them, so when there is suffering, they are not fighting pain on their own strength, but Christ Himself is sharing with them the same yoke. This is why the yoke is easy and the burden is light.


12 A. S. Aldworth and W. S. Ferrie, trans., Gospel of Sufferings: Christian Discourses (London: James Clarke & Co., LTD., 1955), p. 19.

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5 Suffering on the mission field 5.1 The Persecution of Christians in the W orld Today Throughout history, there have been numerous believers who have suffered terrible persecution because of their faith. Until today, the Devil wages his fierce anger against godly servants who have dedicated their lives for the cause of the gospel. Since its birth on the Day of Pentecost, the church of Christ has been cruelly persecuted. Even until today, suffering and persecution leave their painful impact on the church worldwide. Mwanza briefly gives us a glimpse of the evil effect of persecution in various places in the world today:
In most of the predominantly Moslem nations, Christians have been mistreated, tortured, displaced and even killed. Many believers have suffered in Nigeria because of the Moslem domination in the Northern regions. In Sudan, there has been a long battle between the Islamic North and the Christian South. Millions of believers have died or have been displaced because of the civil war. The Islamic government barred humanitarian food aid from being distributed to the mainly Christian victims of the war and threatened any aid agencies who wanted to intervene with relief supplies.13

Of course the list continues even in India, Bangladesh, Mozambique, and Malawi. Coptic Christians in Upper Egypt have suffered severe persecution from the terrorist groups and fanatic Muslims. Numerous homes belonging to Christians and even churches have been burnt with fire. Furthermore, many believers have been burnt in many other countries. When such believers remain faithful until the end, God will award them with a crown of life. The Bible brings inspiring encouragement to those believers in Revelation 2: 10, Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.


13

Mwanza, A Christian Attitude Towards Suffering and Pain.

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5.2 M issionaries and Suffering After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples and said, Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you (John 20: 21). Though such a statement brings so much comfort for Jesus disciples, yet it often points us back to the life of suffering which Christ had. Missionaries on the field should recognize that they are sent on the same mission as Jesus. Of course, Jesus mission was to lay down His life and die on the cross in order to redeem us, while our mission is to tell the whole world that Jesus has accomplished His mission and salvation now is available if we turn in faith to Christ. We are not sent to die for the world; that was Christs mission, and it has been completed already. However, our mission is to bring men and women to a reconciled relationship with God through the cross of Jesus. As missionaries go to the field, and attempt to accomplish their mission, they soon realize that they share the same causes of risk and suffering that Jesus had. We shall review those reasons in relationship to missionaries life and ministry. As Jesus identity was questioned, missionaries identity will always have a big question mark. The following are examples of the kinds of questions that people could ask a missionary: Who are you? What are you doing here? Why did you come to our country? How are you supporting yourself? Why you are learning our language and culture? Questions of missionaries identity will remain as long as they remain on the field. However, accepting the reality that our identity is different and therefore it will bring up many questions is essential in order to overcome any pain, risk and suffering we may have on the field. Also in the same way as Jesus claims were often misinterpreted and even rejected, missionaries should expect that people of the host county will not immediately appreciate their beliefs and worldviews. What we believe to be true might not be regarded in the same way in their eyes. Therefore, we need to be patient and seek the power of the Holy Spirit who alone is able to bring conviction and enlightenment.

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Besides, as missionaries proclaim the message of the gospel they should take comfort that Jesus message was not always accepted or valued. When they do so, they will continue proclaiming the good news even when there is no fruit at all. Missionaries also face so many questions regarding their actions. As imitators of Christ, missionaries actions will receive the same response that Jesus actions received. Missionaries should not be discouraged if they do not see responsiveness or even when they are criticized, because they are partnering with Christ in the gospel of suffering. In addition to this, missionaries goals and objectives will not be achieved without experiencing pain, risk and suffering. Missionaries should realize that their call entails such a suffering, and should accept it and live with it happily. The reason for this is that we are sent in the same way Jesus was sent before. As the Father sent Jesus before, Jesus also has sent us. We need to strive to have the right attitude regarding risk and suffering on the mission field. 6 Christian attitude towards risk and suffering 6.1 Suffering is not evil that we need to avoid In response to what we have been discussing, we shall suggest some important thoughts that should help us as we develop a Christian attitude towards risk and suffering. It is our contention that suffering is not an evil that we need to avoid, but the joy of every imitator of Christ, Gods gift to believers, and the fulfillment of the will of God. Missionaries need to realize the fact that suffering is not a bad thing that we must keep ourselves from or avoid. In many instances Jesus disciples were threatened and warned never to preach in the name of Jesus. Nonetheless, they were willing to receive every suffering and pain as they obeyed the call and carried the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Such a positive spirit would be of great help for missionaries at the time when suffering and persecution take place. It is indeed a great joy to follow the steps of our Lord who embraced suffering with a positive attitude and acceptance. In fact,

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accepting suffering and receiving it from the sovereign hand of God is the first step towards overcoming it. 6.2 Suffering is the joy of every imitator of Christ It is our joy then to follow the Lord Jesus and go the same road He has gone before. That road includes the road to Calvary and suffering. The more mature our relationship with the Lord is the more commitment we will have to imitate Him. If Christ our Lord and king suffered with the joy of obeying the will of the Father, we likewise ought to receive suffering and pain as a means through which we become imitators of Christ. It should be our joy and delight to share with Christ the pain of risk and suffering as He did. Besides, it should be our earnest desire to reflect Christ in our lives in every aspect, including suffering. 6.3 Suffering is Gods gift to believers Paul wrote to the church in Philippians encouraging them to see suffering for the gospel as a gift from God. In Philippians 1:29, Paul says, It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him. How much joy did we have when we accepted Christ, or when we received many other spiritual gifts? Suffering is also a gift that has been granted to us which we should receive with joy and gratitude. As it has been said, Suffering is the byproduct of Christianity.14 We cannot separate suffering from Christianity. As we have been given to believe in Christ, it also has been given to us to suffer for Him. We cannot accept one part of Gods gift of salvation and leave the other. We must either take them both or leave them both. 6.4 Suffering fulfills Gods will The cross of Christ was the perfect will of God for the redemption of the whole world. Jesus often acknowledged the pain and agony that awaited him in Jerusalem, yet his commitment to do the will of the Father surpassed all his pain. Having seen the life of Jesus, we must strive to develop a healthy view of risk and suffering. As dis-


14

Source is uncertain. John Wesley. Christianity and Suffering.

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ciples of Jesus we should be willing to follow his footsteps and travel the same road that he has already taken, the road to Calvary. We must make clear here that as his servants we will not go about and look for trouble and persecution unnecessarily. But our aim here is that when persecution arises, we should be ready to accept it; we should persevere in it and rest in the Lord as we anticipate in faith that He is able to use all things together for the blessing of His people and the extension of His kingdom. 7 Conclusion In conclusion, we should recognize that a theology of risk and suffering on the mission field should not be established on a study of the Gospels alone. Other biblical writings in the New Testament are fundamental to establishing a comprehensive understanding of the issue of risk and suffering. For instance, a thorough study of the book of Acts and Pauls writings should be incorporated in order to develop a sound theology of risk and suffering for missionaries and cross-cultural workers. However, because the scope of this paper was limited to the Gospels, we need to be reminded of the following: The question we should be asking is not whether missionaries should be expecting to go through suffering and persecution or not, but how they will remain faithful and obedient to the call when they suffer. Risk and suffering should be kept in our focus always as we look unto our crucified Lord and Savior. Suffering in general is meaningless, but suffering for the gospel is not. There is a great reward for us when we suffer for the sake of the gospel of our Lord. As Peter encourages us:
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you (1 Peter 4: 12-14).

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BIBLIOGRAPHY Aldworth, A. S., and W. S. Ferrie, trans. Gospel of Sufferings: Christian Discourses. London: James Clarke & Co., LTD., 1955. Paul J Achtemeier, Harper & Row, Publishers ; Society of Biblical Literature: Harper's Bible Dictionary. 1st ed. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985. God and Human Suffering: Louvain Theological & Pastoral Monographs 3. Edited by Jan Lambrecht and Raymond F. Collins. Eerdmans, Chicago: Peters Press Louvian, 1990. Beker, J. Christian. Suffering and Hope: The Biblical Vision and the Human Predicament. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994. Horton, Michael S. Suffering and a Theology of Glory. www.wscal.edu/faculty/wscwritings/horton.osteen/ sufferingandtheologyglory.php (accessed August 24, 2010). Isaiah Majok Dau. Suffering and God: A Theological Reflection on the War in Sudan. Nairobi GPO Kenya: Paulines Publications Africa, 2003. Kierkegaard, S. Gospel of Sufferings: Christian Discourses. Translated by A. S. Aldworth and W. S. Ferrie. London and Southampton UK: Camelot Press, 1955. Maston, T. B. God Speaks Through Suffering. Waco, TX: Word Books Publisher, 1977. McGrath, Alister. Suffering. London, UK: Hodder & Stoughton, 1992. Mwanza, Pukuta N. A Christian Attitude Towards Suffering and Pain. Tonbridge, UK: Sovereign World, 2001. Mwanza, Pukuta N. Christian Service: Risk Taking. http://www.themoorings.org/life/basics/ risk.html (accessed August 10, 2010).

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Ripken, Nik. Seminar Notes. In The Bleeding Edge: Managing Faith in the Midst of Persecution, 2. n.p.: IMB, n.d. Welch, Margret. Tree of Glory. London, UK: Falcon Books, 1974. Wiersbe, Warren. The Bible Exposition Commentary: Mark 1:12. n.p.: Victor Books, 1996. Wiersbe, Warren. Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the New Testament, 111. Wheaton, Ill: Victor Books, 1997. Wright, N. T. Evil and the Justice of God. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press

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SUFFERING: WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO THE APOSTLE PAUL


By Rev Dr J Bryson Arthur 1 1 Introduction That there is suffering, of immense proportions, in the world there can be no doubt. The sorrow-less gods have so spun the thread that wretched mortals live in pain (Homer)2 The suffering of the Biblical figures from Old Testament to New, summed up, we might say, in the great suffering of Jesus, is also clearly recorded. We could be forgiven for saying that both the history of the World and Biblical history are a history of suffering. We often refer to the history traced out in the pages of the Bible as heilsgeschichte, the history of salvation. I want to propose that the history of salvation from the Exodus to the Cross and beyond is closely related to the story of the great suffering of the saints, OT and NEW, so much so that our first question in this paper can possibly be: is suffering salvific?
In St. Pauls writings we find a greatly developed meaning of suffering. Pope John Paul II explains why St. Paul writes so much on suffering: The Apostle shares his own discovery and rejoices in it because of all those whom it can help just as it helped him to understand the salvific meaning of suffering (Salvifici Doloris 1)3

There can be no question amongst Evangelical Christians, if not all Christians, that the passion/suffering of Jesus was salvific for others. However, to argue that the suffering of others including the Apostles, even if of a certain quality,4 is salvific is another matter. Nonetheless suffering, if we consider texts such as James 1:2-4
The author works in a theological training institute in the Middle East. Homer, Iliad 24:525. 3 Brian Pizzalato, Catholic News Agency CNA, 8 July 2010 Article entitled, St Paul explains the meaning of suffering. 4 For example suffering for others.
1 2

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or 1 Peter 4:12-18, is of profound and essential value. We might even pose that suffering of a certain quality5 is an essential and unavoidable product of following Jesus and, in that sense, necessary for salvation. Morna Hooker states:
Dying with Christ involves real suffering...but this dying leads not only to a future life with Christ but to an experience of life in the present also.6

Christian life is a process, I believe, of moral recovery. Moral recovery requires the reverse journey to that which the human ego naturally and vigorously pursues. What is involved then is the dying to self, the deconstruction of the ego. But the sinful desire for self, self gratification and self establishment - realisation of the full potential of the human ego - is very strong, and so undeserved suffering comes upon us as the means of loosening the egos grip. This is why James declares:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials (suffering) of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

The pattern of Christs life is suffering and dying. He is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. He is the Lamb of God who suffered and died that others may live. The Apostles and Christians, too, are called to a life in Christ which involves suffering. But this suffering is very special because for those in Christ, according to Paul, it is sharing in the suffering of Christ.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient


5 6

Undeserved suffering and suffering for others. Morna Hooker, Paul; A beginners guide; One world, Oxford 2003, p. 130.

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endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. (2 Cor1:3-7)

The RSV states perhaps more explicitly in vs 5: For as we share abundantly in Christs sufferings, so through Christ, we share abundantly in comfort too. The key to our suffering given to us by Paul is that we are sharing in the suffering of Christ. Paul considers himself sharing in this suffering and so the Corinthian church, to be authentic, must also share in the suffering of Christ.7 And in Luke 9:23-26:
If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?

We see that anyone who follows Jesus truly must deny the sinful vagaries of his or her ego, taking up his own cross or responsibility in whatever shape or form this is, and follow. All followers then are sharing in the suffering of Christ. This is the way. Jesus said I am the way, the truth and the life. The way is the way of the cross which may be understood as self denial and suffering even to the extent, for some, of physical dying for the sake of others. We have then a suffering of dying to self, and dying for others. Undeserved suffering comes upon us in many guises; bereavement of a loved one or other grievous loss, illness or physical or mental incapacity. Persecution and oppression from others can also be visited upon us. We can be the victims of injustice or not having an honest desire fulfilled (for example marriage, children, the opportunity to use our gifts fully), rejection and being hated and despised by others because of our faith. Such suffering, I propose, of those in Christ is suffering with Christ. Perhaps we could say that such sufferings are Christs sufferings in my flesh. Consider Col 1:24:


7 In 1 Peter 4:12-14 we see also a very similar concept with respect to sharing in the suffering of Christ.

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Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.

Is Paul saying that to complete Christs suffering on the cross we must suffer in our own body? This appears to be a statement of how far Paul himself has suffered for and in Christ. Paul is sharing in Christs sufferings through his own persecution, beatings, imprisonment etc. Is he saying he fills up in his own body what until this point was still lacking in the cross? Could we say then that every Christians own particular suffering completes Christs suffering on the cross?8 This being the case it is easy to see why Pope John Paul II understood suffering as salvific. Morna Hooker again:
For Paul...to share in the sufferings and death of Jesus is not just a question of putting up with pain and degradation and hardship but a sharing in Christs ministry of bringing healing and life to others.9 Those in Christ must share in what he is and so become those through whom this principle of life through death operates.10

According to Jerome Murphy OConnor OP, there is another facet to suffering:


Suffering can be revelatory when the unchangeable is accepted with grace. If the achievement is disproportionate to the means the power of God becomes visible.11

When we overcome the trials through suffering which come upon us even although we have no strength to do so, then Gods help can be seen. We get through what we have to get through because God is with us and we suffer then in His strength and not our own. Some suffering may be said to be supernatural in this light.


8 See further discussion on the concept of filling out that which is lacking in the cross of Christ below. 9 Morna Hooker Ibid., p.131. 10 Ibid. 11 Jerome Murphy OConnor, Paul: A critical Life, Clarendon press, Oxford 1996 p. 313.

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But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. 2 Cor 2:14

Paul refers to the overcoming of suffering as a triumphal procession. And this procession spreads the sweet fragrance of the knowledge of Christ. Further, and more explicitly:
We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 2 Cor 4:10

By our suffering and our overcoming of our suffering the life of Jesus becomes visible in our own bodies and persons. This according to OConnor is: The summit of Second Corinthians and the most profound insight ever articulated as to the meaning of suffering and the authentic nature of ministry.12 2 Metaphysics on suffering: The origin of suffering and the types of suffering 2.1 Origin From the Genesis (Genesis 3) story, Adam and Eve disobeyed God leading mankind into a sinful and evil existence in the World. The desire for the knowledge and, therefore, the power of God overwhelmed first mankind and they fell from their happy, perfect life to a zone or a way of life which is hamartia, missing the mark. Through this original sin, suffering and death resulted. This beginning of suffering in the world is given entry through the curse of God on Adam and Eve. Eve would have great pain in childbearing, signifying the nature of her suffering in terms of both her children and her husband who would dominate her. I think we can take this further as a curse on human society. And the curse on Adam was in terms of the ground which he would have tilled. Adam would now have to toil for his food coming from the ground. The curse is graphic:


12

Ibid. p. 314.

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Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return. Gen 3:17-19

The environment focusing on mankinds need for food would now be alien and resistant. It will be the means of physical, emotional and spiritual pain. Also we see death here. Man was called from the ground and now he will have to return to it. God had already given the first commandment of death.13 Dont disobey or you will die. This death is most essentially to do with rejection and separation. Mankind is rejected by God its Creator and the essential ontological unity of God and man is broken. I want to go further and say that the internal unity and coherence of mans own being is also lost. Mankind is now divided from God and divided from himself and herself. The scene is set for a meta-narrative of suffering throughout world history and world history testifies to this reality. I propose that this narrative, whether historical or symbolic, is the ground of any metaphysics on suffering. Suffering entered the world and is the result of the fall. Original sin is the root and cause of human suffering although suffering is something far more than this. It is the reality of the nature of the state that human beings are now born into. This and the Biblical record of the suffering of the Saints and of God Himself are evidence for us of the profound nature of the element of suffering in the very creation of God and in the nature of that creation. Suffering connects us to both the physical realm and the social realm. It also connects us or reconnects us with God, in terms of the suffering of Christ. This profound essential quality of suffering is seen no more vividly than in the writings of Paul. In our analysis of suffering in Paul we have developed to what we may term a primary creational dialectic. This dialectic is suffering and healing. The three negatives of suffering, evil and death


13 Refers to the command not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In the day you eat of it you shall surely die. Disobedience is itself evil and the entry to evil into the world; it produces both suffering and death.

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seem responsible for the destruction of the human race. In themselves they are entirely, and indeed utterly, negative, but they are not in themselves. They are in an essential and necessary relationship with their opposite reality. What I am saying here is that it is incorrect to think about suffering as an entity in its own. Suffering is linked inviolably with healing. Suffering and healing ought to be considered together because they exist together. Where there is suffering there is also healing. Suffering and healing are the negative and positive sides of something else. And that something else is eternal life in Heaven. 2.2 Three types of suffering I propose that there are three types of suffering. Each of these types has its own quality. They are: deserved suffering, undeserved suffering and suffering for others. When we think about suffering we immediately have the question, what does this mean? When we are in suffering we ask, what is the meaning of this? What is it for? I think we are a distance towards answering these questions in this paper. Meaning of Suffering is the immediate and essential issue which dominates those who are in suffering to almost any extent. Job sought the meaning for his suffering and we have 42 chapters of discourse on this. We may consider the three categories of suffering which I pose, in terms of meaning. 2.2.1 Deserved suffering When we do something criminal, negligent or sinful we suffer because we deserve to suffer. We know what we have done and we see immediately that what we suffer is a result of our action or omission. If we commit a theft and we are prosecuted and go to prison, we immediately know the cause of our suffering. We will agree if we are realistic that this suffering is deserved. This type of suffering usually comes in some form of punishment. The punishment may be corrective but there is nothing more to be had from this category. 2.2.2 Undeserved suffering This type of suffering comes in many forms: bereavement, job loss, illness (mostly), rejection, some other personal tragedy which is no
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fault of the sufferer, etc. etc. Oppression, injustice, persecution, abuse, neglect by others, etc. are also members of this category. The list goes on: disappointment in marriage or not being married when one strongly desires to be so, childlessness. All of these forms of suffering, similar to Jobs, are profoundly difficult to understand. The sufferer, perhaps aided by others, struggles to know the meaning of his or her plight. This struggle, if in the Lord, is essentially theological and in the end produces both revelation and ontological growth. The meaning comes through a great struggle and much anguish. This is Jobs type of suffering and also I believe the suffering referred to in James 1. In effect this suffering is a test of faith and has the result of increasing faith. 2.2.3 Suffering for others We come now to the suffering of Jesus and the suffering of Paul. This is the category which renders immediate and profound meaning. Through this category, I want to pose, God is seen. Grace is given entry. Suffering for others, up to dying in anothers place is, I believe, the highest good and the highest virtue in the world. This is the sweet fragrance of life through sacrificial death. Its power is that it confers life as it conquers death. I believe that it is utterly compelling; we must believe in the one whom we believe suffered and died for us. God is in this suffering, sharing the suffering of the beneficent sufferer. 3 The suffering of the apostle Paul 3.1 From Pauls own writings
Paul draws on the language of affliction (suffering) in virtually all of his letters to interpret human life and the gospel he understands to empower that life. With this language he creates a textual world in which suffering persists and weakness characterises the human lot.14


14 Karl Plank, Paul and the Irony of Affliction. Scholars press, Atlanta Georgia, 1987, p. 3f

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[The] language of affliction does not provide simply another theological topic in the Pauline compendium. Rather it exposes the ground on which the apostle does theology.15

Jesus the Messiah died on the cross and the apostles are suffering now in every essential aspect of their being. Similarly the Corinthians church, as all Christian communities, has to endure this suffering also. Adversity, suffering and weakness which we saw on the cross continue in the life of believers who must take up their own cross and follow Christ. The apostles are alienated from the world and so they are persecuted and oppressed. They are condemned men who have been made a universal spectacle: weak fools dressed in rags, hungry and thirsty and homeless, the scum of the earth and the rubbish of the world.
For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honoured, we are dishonoured! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world. 1 Cor 4:9-13

The central cry from the suffering Paul is that his suffering is a sharing in the suffering of Christ. Perhaps at the point of crucifixion Jesus, before Paul, had become the scum of the earth and the refuse of the world. The suffering of the Corinthian church has to be, it appears, of the same quality as the suffering of Paul. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. (2 Cor1:7) It appears that for Paul, the principal positive element in suffering is that it is followed by the fruit of the shared suffering - comfort. The Greek term for comfort, paraklesis,16 used in the text of 2 Cor has the root meaning of a calling to ones side, hence either an


15

Ibid.

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exhortation or consolation. More fully it means a calling of someone to ones aid. Sharing in the suffering of Christ means that we are called to Christs aid and in so doing we also become ministers of this aid. Morna Hooker, refered to above, refers to this aid as healing. Christs ministry is a ministry of healing, both physically and spiritually. Through suffering we are called to share in Christs ministry of healing. Suffering then brings healing. Pauls suffering, as was the suffering of Jesus, was for the healing of the ekklesia, the body of Christ on earth. If we combine the view of Jerome OConnor (above) that suffering can be revelatory, it follows that the healing which follows suffering, if of the quality of the healing ministry of Christ, is revelatory. God becomes visible through it. We want to argue now that Pauls ministry was an authentic Christian ministry because of his suffering for others. Because of the suffering of Paul he was empowered to bring healing. He, therefore, continued the ministry of Christ. Thomas Schreiner says in this respect:
Pauls suffering is vital to his mission as an Apostle to the Gentiles. We should not conceive of Paul as engaging in mission and experiencing the unfortunate consequences of suffering in the process, as if his difficulties were unrelated to his mission. On the contrary, the pain Paul endured was the means by which the message of the gospel was extended to the nations. Suffering was not a side effect of the Pauline mission; rather it was at the very center of his apostolic evangelism.17

Pauls suffering provided evidence to the truth of his gospel. It was not, of course, atoning as was the death of Jesus. Nonetheless, it was integral to his ministry. At the time of his conversion we hear the frightening words of God:
But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the


See W E Vine, Expository dictionary, p. 207. Thomas R Shreiner, Paul Apostle of Gods Glory in Christ; A Pauline Theology, IVP Academic, Downers grove Illinois, 2001,p..87.
16 17

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people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name. Acts 9:15-16

This suffering of Paul then is either of God or permitted by God. Jobs suffering was of a similar nature. God says to satan, Have you considered my servant Job?18 and in so doing invites Jobs great suffering to come upon him. It seems that in Gods words, I will show him how much he must suffer for my name, speaking this time to Ananias the disciple, suffering has the same mystical quality in the case of Paul. Through suffering Job gained a great and advanced revelation of God, which gave him increased power to comfort his comforters. Through suffering Pauls ministry was extended. Through Pauls overcoming of his suffering on every occasion of it, and his great resolve and integrity which was unmovable in Christ, sinners believed. In Jobs case a similar resolve is shown in that he refused to do as his wife urged him, Curse God and die.19 Donald Guthrie, I believe, supports my statement that the suffering of Paul, as indeed the suffering of Christians in general, is either of God and so willed by Him, or at least it is permitted by Him. He argues that life for the Christian is life according to Gods will and, concerning suffering, he states: Those enduring suffering according to Gods will should entrust themselves to a faithful creator. (1 Peter 4:19).20 Guthrie argues that the problems involved in the suffering of God Himself, which he terms Gods willing suffering for His people21 are nowhere discussed in the New Testament. However, the intensity of the Gethsemane passage, which is a loud statement as to the suffering of God linked to the will of God, is evidence that they had conviction of Gods will and wisdom in this matter:
This is bound up with the conviction of Gods providential care for his people. If suffering comes God must have a purpose in it.22


18 19

Job 1:8 Job 2:9 20 Donald Guthrie, New Testament Theology, IVP, Leicester, 1973, p. 97. 21 Ibid. 22 Ibid.

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From the revelation of the writings of Paul23 we must conclude that suffering is indeed an integral part of Gods salvation of sinners. We might pose that there was no suffering in the world until the Fall, but after the Fall suffering abounded and so suffering is used, as is death, in the salvation dynamic or process. Guthrie again:
[The] NT approach to suffering constantly takes it into the sphere of Gods purpose. Although it is true that suffering is nowhere explained there is enough evidence to show what the Christian attitude should be towards it...Since the supreme example of suffering lies at the heart of Gods redemptive activity in Christ it cannot be maintained that suffering is alien to the purpose of God.24

Of course, there are those protest atheists who build a case against the existence of God because of the suffering and evil in Gods world. It is the great subject of theodicy to give reasons and a rational for the presence and effects of suffering and evil in the world in terms of the very nature of Creation and Gods purpose for Creation. We do not find Job denying God because of his great suffering and nor do we find Paul saying one negative word against God in this respect;
Paul in recounting his experiences in 2 Corinthians 4:7-5:10 in no way critizsises God for the hardships he has endured. He sees these hardships as tools in the hand of God. The present momentary affliction is regarded as slight compared with the weight of glory to follow.25

Paul has an attitude of triumph with respect to his suffering and similar to James (James 1:2) he rejoices in suffering because it develops the quality of endurance. (Rom 5:3) 3.2 W eakness the essential virtue The pages of scripture and Pauls own writings testify to his ethical and moral integrity. He was a man of truth and great courage. He


And James and Peter. Guthrie, New Testament Theology, p. 97. 25 Ibid., p. 98.
23 24

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was completely loyal to his task of preaching the gospel of Christ to the Jews and then the Gentiles. He was in every way a giant of faith, meek when he was with his flock though fiery in writing letters. Yet what comes through from the pages of his letters is not great strength but great weakness. Paul is weak. And furthermore he holds weakness to be a virtue.
The advance of Pauls mission, that is, the progress of the gospel, occurred through his suffering. This explains how Paul could rejoice in weakness...for he understood that weakness was the means by which the powerful word of the cross took effect in peoples lives.26 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor 12:7-10

Jesus Himself had demonstrated human weakness from His plea in Gethsemane to let this cup pass from me to His apparent response to Pilots questioning, and in the going to the cross itself as a lamb going to the slaughter. But in this human weakness is hidden the infinite, eternal and absolute power of God being brought to bear for the salvation of sinful humanity. For those who have eyes to see, the great power and glory of the grace of God is seen in this human weakness of Jesus. What we might term the weakness of the cross, I propose, is the essential element that draws human beings and changes their hearts. Indeed the weakness of the cross breaks human hearts. It is the amazing revelation of the grace of God that caused the Roman soldier to proclaim that Jesus was surely the Son of God.27


26 27

Thomas Schreiner, Paul Apostle of Gods Glory in Christ, p. 99. Mk 15:39.

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Schreiner states above that weakness is the means by which the powerful word of the cross took effect in peoples lives. I want to say that the weakness of the cross is the powerful word of the cross. It is this chosen weakness of God which invokes our own words of response and our own affirmation that surely this man hanging on the cross is the Son of God. We are compelled by the courage and utter resolve of this innocent weakness to respond, not to Jesus the man hanging there, but to God. Schreider again;
When Paul enquires whether the Galations have had a spell cast over them since they fail to see Jesus as the crucified one (Gal 3:1) he probably had in mind his own suffering as a corollary to Christs.28

Pauls weakness in terms of his affliction (2 Cor 12:7) is given to him by God. God in a sense has given Paul weakness. This appears to be unjust, similar to the suffering given to , the most righteous man on earth. Paul refers to this weakness as a messenger of Satan. It is Gods power which will be seen in and through Paul, not Pauls power as he has no power of himself. This is unjust in terms of the natural understanding of the term and concept. Indeed it is injustice defeating injustice similarly to death defeating death. Through this injustice and death concerning Jesus and extending to Paul, abundant life and justice are restored in the kingdom of God on earth now and to come. If we can say that suffering is death working in us as in Paul, and this quality of suffering leads to both our own healing and the healing and abundant life, or authentic life, of others, then we have a completely new perspective on the positive nature of suffering. We might also pose that those who are not suffering, or have not suffered undeservedly and for others, are not equipped as ministers of the gospel and to work for the extension of the kingdom of God. The teaching here is that it is through suffering and weakness that God acts in Grace to save the world - certainly not in human strength and power, puny as this actually is. It is not through hu-


28

Schreiner, Paul Apostle of Gods Glory in Christ, p. 99.

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man wisdom and knowledge which in the end will be seen to be foolishness before God.29 Having said all of the above on Pauls weakness, Paul does not strike the reader as weak. It is great courage and commitment that shines through. It is Paul himself who informs us about his weakness, but not so much in the form of a confession although his own cry of despair does show sharply the weakness of fallen human nature: Oh wretched man that I am who shall deliver me from the body of this death... (Rom 7:24) His confession is more that God is strong and that he trusts in this strength of God. He does not repent the fact of his weakness and in I Cor 4: 9-13 he intensifies his language of affliction and suffering perhaps with the purpose of really connecting with the Corinthian church. In the words of Karl Plank:
At no time in the discourse does Paul employ the language of affliction simply to communicate the datum that he is weak. In the first place he has no need to do so.30 If Paul ever was concerned to repent the fact of his weakness he has here (in 1 Cor 4: 9-13) abandoned such an attempt and has set out to use the language of affliction to assault the Corinthian sensibility.31

3.3 Corollary to the suffering of Christ Schreiner talks of Pauls suffering as a corollary to the suffering of Christ. This corollary fills out that which is lacking in the cross of Christ. So, according to him, Pauls suffering follows directly and is a consequence of the suffering of Christ, with a purpose. The purpose is to fill out that which is lacking in the cross:
We see that Paul functions as a corollary of the cross of Christ, in that his suffering is the path of salvation for the Corinthians just as Christs suffering is the way in which Gods saving power is released.32


29 This is not to say that Theology is futile; it is the result of theology that I was able to make the statement. Theology must ever seek for the truth and the authentic meaning of the Revelation of God even although in the end before the Majesty and infinite wisdom of God it will be seen as foolishness. 30 Karl Plank, Paul and the Irony of Affliction, p. 73. 31 Ibid., p. 74.

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Pauls life, through suffering, is the means by which life is produced in the Corinthians (2Cor 4:12). Paul is again, therefore, the corollary of Jesus for just as Jesus died to convey life to his people, so too Paul must suffer for the life of God to be communicated to others.33

Dare we say that Jesus suffering was the way the truth and the life for the Jews, and Pauls suffering as a corollary to Jesus suffering is the way the truth and the life for the Corinthians. And must we go further for the Gentiles? No, but Pauls suffering is a revelation not of Himself but Christ to the Gentiles.
Pauls commitment to suffer and die for Christ is the means by which the strength of Jesus and his life are revealed through Paul... Paul maintains that one must suffer for the life of Jesus to be revealed.34

In this instance at least the power of revelation is not made manifest through miracles and signs but the triumphant overcoming of profound suffering. What then, is the meaning of the Pauline words that which is still lacking in the cross of Christ? We introduced this statement above. The text again is Col 1:24:
Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.

According to Schreiner:
We can eliminate immediately any notion that Christs work on the cross was inadequate and that Pauls sufferings play a role in securing forgiveness for human beings.35

In Col 1:20 Paul argues that all things are reconciled through the death of Christ. Believers are full and complete in Christ (Col 2:20). Christs atoning sacrifice is absolute and eternal. There is no gap possible in this infinite quality of Grace. So why does Paul make such a statement? What can be still lacking? Put by Shreiner,


Schreiner, Paul Apostle of Gods Glory in Christ, p. 95. Ibid., p. 96. 34 Ibid. 35 Ibid., p. 100.
32 33

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If Paul is not compromising the uniqueness and sufficiency of Christs death what does he have in mind when he says he fills up what is lacking in Christs sufferings?36

According to Robert Wall,


Paul is surely not saying that the Lord Christ lacks anything as the messianic agent of God's salvation; nor does he mean that the redemptive results of his death need to be supplemented by Paul...The images of a suffering Christ in Paul's writings are usually employed to illustrate and interpret his own suffering as a missionary. Here suffering is exemplary of servant hood, but not expiatory of sin. In this way Christ's suffering is logically parallel to his own; like Christ, Paul is God's "suffering servant"; and like Christ's, his suffering indicates obedience to God's commission.37 Paul's phrase, however, is to be taken metaphorically rather than literally. Speaking of completing requisite suffering is yet another way of calling attention to the importance of completing the Gentile mission. In Paul's conception of the Gentile mission, his evangelistic work brings into Israel's number the "fullness of the Gentiles" (Rom 11:1-24) that will trigger the Lord's return to earth and ethnic Israel's return to God (Rom 11:25-26). Even in this passage Paul repeats the root of to fill to stress that the aim of his personal sacrifice--I fill up [antanapleroo] in my flesh--is to complete his mission: to present to you the word of God in its fullness [plerosai].38

Wall also discusses the apparently common view arising from Jewish apocalyptic tradition which we do not deal with here.39 What Wall is saying is that we are to understand the term what is still lacking in regard to Christs sufferings as a metaphor which relates


Ibid., p. 101. Robert Wall, IVP Commentary, Leicester, p. l 38 Ibid. 39 Most scholars understand Paul's reference to Christ's afflictions as a catchphrase from Jewish apocalypticism. In this tradition, Jews understood Israel's suffering as a sign of the last days and a condition for the coming of the Messiah (see O'Brien 1982:76-80). Some even assigned a fixed amount of suffering which, when satisfied, would result in the apocalypse of God's salvation. Israel's suffering, then, was the "birth pangs" of the promised new covenant (compare Jer 31:31) about to become a reality.
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to Pauls ministry to the Gentiles. Filling up in Pauls flesh means to complete his mission to the Gentiles. The fullness of the Gentiles coming in is what is lacking in Christs affliction, so to speak. Paul is the Apostle to the Gentiles, and through him we see the mystery unravelled that Salvation is not only for the people of God (the Jews) but for the Gentiles also. Paul is commissioned (Col 1:23) to preach the gospel in the whole World. This is the subject of his discourse in vs 24 the filling up what is lacking statement.
Seeing that the passage highlights Pauls unique apostolic commission to bring the gospel to the Gentiles helps us understand how he fills up the affliction of Christ...The fulfilment of Gods word... relates to bringing the gospel to the Gentiles so that they are perfected in Christ. The means by which Paul fulfils the word of God by bringing the gospel to the Gentiles is suffering. The filling up of Christs afflictions is the pathway by which the gospel is fulfilled in the lives of the Gentiles.40

So according to Schreiner, Paul is not saying that Christs death was insufficient in any way; rather that the suffering of Paul, as a corollary to the suffering of Christ, extends the message of Christs all sufficient death to the Gentiles, for such a message was concealed from the Gentiles during the life of Jesus of Nazareth.41 So what was lacking was that the revelation of the gospel of the suffering servant was not yet proclaimed to the Gentiles and so the gateway to their salvation was not yet revealed to them. The suffering of Christ on the cross was effectively a revelation of the Grace of God to the Jews. The Gentiles who were exposed to the revelation believed, eg the thief on the cross and the Roman Soldier. The quality of the suffering of Paul being that of a sharing of the suffering of Christ was effectively a saving revelation to the Gentiles; but not a revelation of Paul, but of Christ. In Pauls suffering the mystery of the cross is revealed to those outside of the called people of God.


40 41

Thomas Schreiner, Paul Apostle of Gods Glory in Christ, , p. 101f. Ibid.

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4 Metaphysics on suffering; continued The corollary of the fall of first mankind into sin is that all human beings who follow are condemned with the same curse. Perhaps God does not invite satan to trouble us or He doesnt visit us with the great suffering of Paul, but nonetheless we suffer to some degree and extent; some greatly, some not so great. When the curse is removed by our entry into the kingdom of God through regeneration, the problem of suffering is not solved; rather it is more likely that we suffer more when fiery or not so fiery trials come upon us. And, of course, there is always the possibility of the amazing privilege of sharing in the suffering of Christ through undeserved suffering and by suffering for others. 4.1 Death to self: the dissolution of the human ego and the old personal identity Pauls type of suffering continues on from that of Jesus. It is suffering for others. And so there is immediate soteriological meaning involved. Paul is suffering for the Gentiles. We have argued that this suffering is the corollary of Jesus suffering, not that it is in any way atoning, but that it is the revelation of the Cross to the Gentiles. This quality of suffering, we have seen, involves dying to live; it is a Suffering of the Cross because it is a dying of the human ego. It is a betrayal of the old nature in favour of the new. It is an ontological dissolution of me involving utter personal weakness. It is truly the end of myself. Saul the Pharisee came to nothing in himself; he died, as did Job: Why then did you bring me out of the womb? I wish I had died before any eye saw me. 42 Elijah the Tishbite also came to the end of himself: He (Elijah) came to a broom tree sat down under it and prayed that he might die. I have had enough Lord, he said. Take my life I am no better than my ancestors.43

Job 10:18. 1 Kings 19:4b My argument here is that what is involved in this proclamation is much more than the fear of Jezebel. This is an ontological statement about the utter valuelessness of Elijahs life.
42 43

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There is a real sense in which, when beings in the world cease to run and turn to face their perceived ontological reality as nothing in themselves, echoic of the writer of Ecclesiastes, they come to the point of the death of self in themselves they have come to nullity. Self realisation failed because, I propose, it was grounded on the wrong understanding of authentic selfhood. Indeed the old nature with its lies and deception and self delusion produces inauthentic selfhood. The force of undeserved suffering and suffering for others, and this force alone, is the means of coming to this place of the death of inauthentic life and so suffering is perhaps the greatest human virtue. Perhaps in more general terms we could say:
When an Individual ceases to flee, ... from the reality of being with its polarities and tensions and indeed frustrations, and faces his own being, he enters the realm of the ultimate whereby he becomes aware of the meaninglessness and futility of beings in the world which exist for their own sake, seeking meaning and value in terms of themselves alone. He comes to a nihilistic perspective where the only reality which has integrity is nothingness ...Delusion is at an end and there is no point to anything. Perhaps the place of coming to nothing could be described as radical and total cynicism. Or perhaps it could be described as the reality of the disorder of fallen human existence whereby man seeks meaning, satisfaction and realisation in terms of himself and his finite world, rather than in and through God. He seeks the fulfilment of his person or selfhood in and through the love of self and not the love of the other in God.44

In the words of the late Scottish theologian John Macquarrie;


Selfhood is attained only in so far as the existent (the person who exists) is prepared to look beyond the limits of his own self for the master concern that can create such a stable and unified existence. He must be prepared to accept the factical aspects of his existence, his finitude, transience, morality, and take these up into potentiality which he projects for himself into the future. This means in effect that by


44J Bryson Arthur, Revelation and Religious Pluralism, PhD Thesis, Glasgow University 1993, p. .80f.

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looking beyond himself, or as we may say dying to himself, he becomes himself.45

Macquarrie quotes the New Testament in respect to the paradox of the necessity of dying to self to live in a true self in God. Whoever will save his life will lose it; whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospels will save it. (Mat 8:35) James Dunn puts the paradox of believers dying to live thus:
Death is at work in the believer as well as life... this is...the consequence of the believers divided state; as members of the first Adam they belong to this age, they are dying; as members of the last Adam, they belong to the age to come, they experience the life giving Spirit.46 Suffering now is a necessary preparation for and compliment to future glory... Only when death has had its full say, only when mortality has corrupted to death, only then will the believer escape the clutches of death.47

Dunn argues that Pauls near death experience (2 Cor 12:2-6) focused his mind on the problem of suffering as the place of death, and suffering and death within the process of salvation. Since Paul was given a thorn in the flesh to keep him from being proud and conceited, boasting in himself, Dunn concludes that out of the body experiences, and such like, were what prevented the power of God from having its proper effect:
[It] was precisely not experiences of power leaving behind bodily weakness which Paul saw as the mark of Grace but experience of power in and through bodily weakness. Continuing human weakness was an integral part of the process of salvation. Human weakness was not a denial of divine power, but an unavoidable and even necessary compliment to divine power in the overlap of the ages.48

Pauls out of the body experience and then the thorn in his flesh present us with the eschatological tension of the now and the not
45 John Macquarrie, Principles of Christian Theology, SCM press, London, 1988, p. 79. 46 James Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle, p. 482. 47 Ibid., p.483 48 Ibid.

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yet, the kingdom which had come and the kingdom which had yet to come in its fullness. He sees a vision of the kingdom to come but he remains, for the sake of the Gentiles, in the present kingdom status with increased suffering through the message of satan in his own body. Suffering then is part of the now and yet to come tension. We die to the now, the already come, to live in the yet to come. The kingdom come is the place of our death and the Kingdom which is yet to come the place of our resurrection to eternal life. Believers are reborn of the Spirit but it is this very rebirth which demands the death of the sarx. The sins of the flesh which in reality constitute the old nature and the old identity must die in the now and finally and ultimately in physical death. The new born spirit may enter the kingdom of heaven but not in its dialectical tension with the old body. The old body remains and continues only as the seed or the physical principle of the new eternal body. In the drawing together of the reborn spirit and the new heavenly body we have a new and glorious human ontological unity and as such absolute peace of identity. 4.2 Suffering and healing We have said already that suffering is a dialectical quality and its opposite is healing. So it is proper to talk of suffering and healing as a dialectical pair. Now I want to pose that human beings who have the capacity of suffering and healing engage the world, the physical and spiritual time space universe through this capacity. I am saying that our worldly relations in the different spheres of being, physical, spiritual, cognitive, and emotional all derive from the dialectic of suffering and healing. The dialectic connects us and gives us an incarnational dynamic. Suffering and healing is the way in and the way to be in this creation of God, which we argue of course is the most perfect creation. Suffering for others is the grace of calling others to our side and therefore comforting them. The primary and glorious example of Jesus is that He called men and women to His side to heal them through His suffering. His ministry was clearly a healing ministry. Mankind is disconnected by the fall, disconnected from God, from

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each other and from themselves. In their own being they are disunited. Also, from the physical universe, the ground is the subject of the curse. Disconnection is itself a profound source of suffering. Men and women live in this state of disconnection and so they live in angst and pain, insecurity, guilt, and meaninglessness. John Macquarrie discusses the human quest as a search to be free from guilt and a quest for meaning.49 The disconnection is solipsistic: it can never reach in and it can never be in. Citizens of the earth are not in. And so they are not secure. They have no security of being. Human communities are again to some extent and degree aggregate being. This we may term a crowd and not a community in the connected relational sense. A crowd is an aggregate of disconnected beings. World Being is aggregate: it is not connected Being. Human marriage attempts connection and, therefore, poses the solution to the loneliness, the aloneness and the insecurity. Marriage is an attempt at connection, at being in each other. It is one flesh sharing intimacy. So many marriages break down completely as the attempt at connection fails, even Christian marriages. But it is a real and sincere attempt to be in. Connection requires suffering and pain of a certain profound quality, as already discussed. Healing is the result of connection. Put otherwise, connection can only be the product of reconciliation. Connection in the authentic and not pseudo sense requires the reversal of the curse of the disconnection of original sin. This is true and absolute healing, infinite comfort. The suffering of the death of the self is a connector which through the strength of God regains the state of being- in. Those then who come to the utter end of themselves in terms of their old nature are attuned50 to receive the power and strength of God and can now step in. To be out of themselves utterly is to be in Christ utterly. To be in Christ utterly is to be comforted and it is to be healed. To be in Christ means that Christ is at our side.51


Ibid. Macquarries term. 51 In the Person of His Spirit.
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We are not alone. The Spirit is the Paraklete, the comforter. He is Christ at our side. He is our strength to be, but the courage to be must be ours. Christians are involved then in loss and mourning. But Jesus assures us with the promise, Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.52


52

Mat 5:4.

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THEOLOGY OF RISK AND SECURITY FOR MISSIONARIES IN THE ARAB WORLD


By Prisca Sm ythe , M D, and Ta ylor Graeme Sm ythe , PhD 1 1 Introduction Ministry in the Arab world brings us into regular contact with risk and danger. Some situations involve physical danger to ourselves or our families; others impact projects or organizations. Some decisions in the face of risk and danger are straightforward, but others are not. Circumstances may present only one morally correct or acceptable choice, where the challenge is not to make a better decision but to accept and deal with the potential or real personal loss that will result. In these types of cases, one's decision and subsequent action can be reduced to simple obedience. More complex decisions involve myriad choices that are not clearly black and white and outcomes that are less than certain. These may involve greater or lesser degrees of risk and potential loss of lives and resources. Sometimes the benefits of these choices clearly outweigh the risks, but at other times the outcome is far from guaranteed. How can we approach risk from a theological perspective? How does God view risk and security, danger and safety? Can Christians come to consensus on what are universal and timeless principles that can govern not only individual but also corporate approach to risk? 2 Approach to the Study In this paper we will examine Scripture to inform our understanding and develop a basic theology of how to approach risk and security issues. Our goal is to establish a biblical


1 The authors, who work in the Arab World, wish to thank Kenton Sparks, PhD, and Steve Boyer, PhD for their review and insightful comments on the paper.

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framework that can inform our collective choices and practices in cross-cultural Arab Muslim ministry within a hostile environment. 2.1 Assumptions and Limitations of our A pproach One assumption that may impact our discussion, and how one approaches risk benefit analysis, is the understanding of eternal destiny and rewards. Those who do not believe in personal rewards in addition to eternal life could argue that any discussion of riskbenefit analysis is based in only temporal, "this life," consequences. In contrast, those who believe that there will be differing levels/magnitude of heavenly rewards based on our works, could argue that eternal benefits are not uniform for all believers, but are a variable that needs to be reflected in any risk-benefit analysis as well. We will not seek to advocate either position, believing that this difference will not significantly affect our study and conclusions. Similarly, we will not discuss the risk of losing one's salvation by one's choices, although this might be a concern to some theological viewpoints. In one sense this could be seen as a theological "trump card" in any discussion surrounding choices involving risk. Second, while we will assume all decision-makers are seeking the will of God, we want to focus more on the choices that crosscultural workers must make in dangerous situations. Thus, our focus will not be primarily about discerning God's will, as this topic is treated extensively in other writings. Similarly, we recognize that insider movements in the Arab world clearly involve themes of risk and security, but we will not specifically discuss this topic, as it has been the focus of other St Francis Magazine publications. Finally, a thorough discussion of the topic cannot avoid materials from the Gospels and the Apostle Paul. However, we will leave a more focused and detailed study of those viewpoints to other authors who are contributing to this series of papers on risk and security. 2.2 Definitions "Risk" is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as "Possibility of loss or injury (peril). In contrast, "security" is defined as, "Freedom from danger (safety); freedom from fear or anxiety. For
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the purpose of our study, we will assume that "risk" and "security" are opposing qualities, i.e. high-risk behavior is that which jeopardizes security, incurring danger and harm, and low risk behavior is the opposite. The types of decision in the Arab world context that we envision involve opposition and enmity to the crosscultural worker who is furthering the cause of Christ in missionary work. So although we recognize that risk and safety can also be aligned and related in positive fashion (for example in personal relationships, risking vulnerability and openly sharing with others can lead to security and deepening of understanding), this discussion assumes that risk and security are incongruous entities and represent polar extremes of a dyad. 2.3 Outline The article will first seek to summarize general themes in Scripture and foundational principles that relate to the theology of security and risk. This will then be followed by a word study on texts and verses in the Bible on risk, danger, safety, and security. Then we will propose a risk classification scheme based on what we believe are Biblical examples. We will conclude by looking at additional specific questions about risk management that Scripture may address. 2.4 The thesis that w e propose "When confronted by circumstances requiring personal decision and action where the temporal outcome is not known, Scripture commends risk of personal security and resources in obedience to God by faith. These decisions, guided by our convictions and conscience, lead to actions wherein God clearly works for the sake of His glory, and results in our good." 3 Foundational Biblical principles Our approach to risk and security will be influenced by our understanding of God and His character, the nature of man, and the environment and the context in which we operate.

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3.1 The character of God 3.1.1 God is a God of peace (Rom 15:33) whose Kingdom is characterized by peace (1 Kings 4:25), safety (Ps 4:8), refuge (Ps 46:1) and provision (Ps 34:10). Intrinsic to His character is the safety that we long for in the midst of difficult circumstances. Loss and difficulty do not spring from His nature. Suffering is not intrinsically good, based on God's character, but only good when it serves the purposes of a character trait intrinsic to God, such as love, mercy, grace or redemption. 3.1.2 All that God had created He judged to be "very good" (Gen 1:31). This assessment implies a sense of completeness and wellbeing, and relates to God's peace, "shalom." 3.1.3 Jesus' announcement of His Kingdom in Isaiah 61 describes binding up broken hearts, liberty for captives, comfort for those who mourn, gladness, and joy. When Jesus reigns fully, the griefs and disappointments of this life give way to the healing and wholeness intrinsic to Himself. The healing ministry of Jesus demonstrated this principle. 3.1.4 The Lord's likening Himself to a Shepherd of His people (Ps 23, Isa 40:11) highlights His care, protection and compassion. 3.1.5 When God Himself is among His people, there will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain (Rev 21:3-4). In His presence is fullness of joy (Ps 16:11) Examples include rejoicing in trials because of the endurance and maturity that will result (James 1:2-4) and Jesus enduring the cross for the joy before Him (Heb 11:2). 3.1.6 Implication of God's peace. When we are hard-pressed by the dangers of life, we can take comfort in the goodness and wholeness of God. Let us resist satanic distortion of our understanding of His character as we deal with pain and loss, and by faith affirm our core belief in God's character. 3.1.7 Rejoicing in suffering results from at least two dynamics: 1) Understanding how suffering fits into the big picture; making sense of it. Jesus endured the cross because He anticipated the joy of

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redeeming us to Himself (Heb 11:2), and Paul teaches us to rejoice in hope while persevering in tribulation (Rom 12:12). 2) Willingness --- in 1 Chron 29:9 the people rejoiced because they offered so willingly. A heart submitted to God and eager to do what He asks will be able to experience joy even when suffering. 3.2 The Conflict 3.2.1 Creation is temporarily marred by sin and its consequences, including suffering and death (Gen 2:17, 3:16-19). The people of God battle a destructive enemy (Eph 6:12, John 10:10) and, although they sustain injuries, they will prevail and triumph (2 Thes 2:3-8, Rev 6:9-11, 19:19-21). 3.2.2 The pattern of battle was portrayed in Genesis 3:15 as enmity between the seed of the serpent and the Seed of the woman, with the woman's Seed crushing the head of the serpent's seed, while the latter bruises the heel of the former. This was fulfilled most completely in Jesus' victory over Satan on the cross (the archetype), but also is played out in the current age (the paradigm). The faith-children of the woman's Seed continue to defeat the forces of evil in the lives of individuals and communities, but often at the cost of personal loss or injury. The enemies of God may oppose and thus harm the servants of God (2 Tim 4:14-15). 3.2.3 Psalm 2 describes the rage of the nations against the Lord and His anointed, in contrast to His own scoffing derision (vs 1-4). God's enemies may do their worst, and we may bear the brunt of their rage, but He will install His King on His holy mountain (vs. 6). A blessing is pronounced on all who take refuge in Him (vs 12). 3.2.4 In characterizing His kingdom, Jesus blesses those who are persecuted for His sake, likening them to the prophets and promising a great reward (Mat 5:10-12). Jesus also expected his followers to be treated as He had been; hated and persecuted by some, obeyed by others (John 15:18-20). 3.2.5 Ultimately, the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ (Rev 11:15). The objective of our risks will certainly be realized.

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3.2.6 The reasons God created a world with the potential for suffering and pain are hinted at in two passages: Rom 3:21-26 says that God is using this world to demonstrate his righteousness. Eph 1:6, 12, and 14 repeat the goal of the praise of His glory (of His grace), and Eph 2:4-7 describes the gospel, culminating with the reason: "in order that in in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." In our world, God is writing the story of His grace that will be told and retold for all eternity. 3.2.7 Implication of the "battle." Be encouraged that losses are to be expected in this world, but they are not the end of the story. The final victory is sure, those who sow weeping will reap with shouts of joy (Ps 126:5-6). 3.3 Redemption: Good from bad 3.3.1 God is at work for good, even in the worst that we experience. Romans 8 assures us that God causes all things to work together for good (vs. 28), that his provision is generous and complete, based on His prior gift of Jesus (vs. 31-32), and that the purposes of His love are impossible to thwart (vs. 35-39) 3.3.2 Suffering incurred in the process of building Christ's kingdom is shorter and of less magnitude than the life and salvation achieved (2 Cor 4:17). 3.3.3 Ruth is a study in God's redemption of bad situations. God changed her from widow to wife, from barren to mother, from poor to wealthy, from a gentile to one who took refuge in the Lord and became part of the messianic line. Her story exemplifies the ability of God to bring good out of bad. Similarly, Joel promises that God will restore what the locusts destroyed during the period of God's judgment (Joel 2:25). 3.4 Gods sovereignty. 3.4.1 God is able to rescue from any danger, to provide in any need, to protect from any harm. However, sometimes He allows harm/suffering to take place. We can trust His purposes. One thing

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that makes risk frightening is the perception that we will be put in a position of helplessness, in which we cannot do anything to prevent harm. There are no situations in which harm cannot be prevented by our sovereign God. 3.4.2 We are surrounded by angels whose task is to minister to us (Hebr 1:14). Elisha was confident in the protection of the horses and chariots of fire surrounding him. His servant could not see them until his eyes were opened by God (2 Kings 6:14-17). Angels ministered to Jesus after His temptations (Mat 4:11). Note that they were withheld from giving assistance during the actual temptations, but were on site and ready to help as soon as the temptations were over. At His arrest, Jesus was aware of more than twelve legions of angels standing ready to save Him, but refused to appeal for their support (Matthew. 26:52-54). Note that this was communicated to the disciples who were trying to defend him, to teach them the priority of fulfilling God's plan. Jesus was not threatening His attackers. 3.4.3 The Holy Spirit in us is greater than the enemy in the world (1 John 4:4). The power of the Holy Spirit is emphasized in Jesus' descriptions of Him (John 14:26; 16:13ff). 3.4.4 Satan has to ask permission from God, indicating his position of submission to God's authority. Satan tempted Job only as far as God allowed him (Job 1:12, 2:6). Satan asked permission to sift Peter (Luke 22:31-32), which was granted, but Peter's faith was upheld by the prayers of Jesus, and he was given the ministry of encouraging his brothers afterward. The Legion of demons implored Jesus not to send them to the abyss, and for permission to enter the herd of swine (Luke 8:30-33). 3.4.5 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said, "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us..., and He will deliver us.... But if not, ...we are not going to serve your gods..." They recognized God's ability to save them from harm, and also His sovereign right to choose to handle the situation as He desired.

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3.4.6 Sometimes the choice seems to be between losing life one way and losing it another. In this case, it still feels like risk, but the stakes are manageable. And despite appearances, God may bring deliverance. The four lepers chose between dying from famine in the besieged city and dying by the sword of the Arameans, but were miraculously saved (2 Kings 7:3-8). Esther weighed dying by royal edict against dying by personal rejection of the king, summing up her acceptance of the risk, "If I perish, I perish" (Esther 4:13-16). Of course the story concludes in the salvation of her whole nation as well as herself personally. Amazingly, the realization of our worst fears can merge with deliverance from God in the same event. Paul acknowledged that he was about to be executed, and saw in his death God's deliverance from every evil deed, in arriving safely in His heavenly kingdom (2 Timothy 4: 6, 18). 4 Word Study Our word study will be based on English text in the New International Version where the specific words risk, secure, safe and danger are cited. We understand the limitations of this approach, and where appropriate will refer to the specific Hebrew or Greek words or seek to define the implied meanings of the original text. It is interesting to note that there are more verses related to safety and security than risk and danger. 4.1 Risk 4.1.1 Occurrences of the word risk This word occurs nine times in the New International Version. In the Old Testament, the two records are of the mighty men who risked their lives to get David water from Jerusalem. New Testament use of this word is in accounts of people who, generally, risked their lives, including: Barnabas and Paul in Acts 15 are described by Jerusalem leaders (risk = give up, hand over);

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Priscilla and Aquila the tentmakers who risked for Paul (Romans 16:4) (risk = lay down); Epaphroditus, first bishop of Philippi, who served Paul in a way that the church could not and was ill unto death. (risk = throw aside)

In four of the NIV passages, the word risk is not in the text, but rather is implied. The other five passages use five different words (two Hebrew and three Greek), meaning: "despise, "throw, "give up, hand over", "throw down", "lay aside", Most of these include the meaning of "devaluing" that which is put at risk. 4.1.2 Summary on "Risk" All of these believers are commended for taking risks, and they took risks as a result of their personal relationship with the beneficiary of their actions, and typically their risk-taking was for a specific goal and purpose. Central to the concept of risk is relative valuing, that is, considering one thing less important than another, resulting in the willingness to "despise, throw down, lay aside" the less valuable thing for the more valuable. We see this many times in the biblical account: Moses considering the reproach of Christ to be greater value than the treasures of Egypt (Hebrews 11:26); Zebulun who despised their lives even to death (Judges 5:18) in fighting the battle alongside Deborah and Barak; the brethren who overcame Satan partly because they did not love their life even to death (Revelation 12:11); and of course our Saviour who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising its shame (Hebrews 12:2). As we contemplate taking risks, we can be sure that the Lord commends risks taken for the sake of His kingdom. And we can analyze what we value, and what we are willing to lay down for Him and for the sake of things of greater value. 4.2 Safety 4.2.1 Occurrences of the word safety There are at least 15 Hebrew and Greek words translated "safety" (or some variant) in 47 verses. Included are concepts of:

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dwelling in security and confidence (1 Kings 4:25, Psalm 4:8, Jeremiah 32:37, Hosea 2:18); going through an experience in completeness, soundness, welfare, and peace (Genesis 28:21, Judges 8:9, Luke 15:27); fleeing for refuge from danger (Exodus 9:19, Jeremiah 6:1); being guarded and watched over (1 Samuel 22:23); a good, agreeable way of treating others (1 Samuel 24:19); an uncomplicated journey (Ezra 8:21); deliverance, rescue, and salvation from either human or spiritual dangers (Job 5:4,11; Psalm 12:5); receiving victory (Psalm 119:117); being out of the reach of danger (Proverbs 18:10); a refuge and stronghold wrongly sought in alliance with another country (Isaiah 30:2-3); the attempt of the wicked to escape God's judgment (Micah 6:14); being guarded from a plot (Mark 6:20); being brought through a danger (Acts 23:24, 27:43-44, 28:1, 1 Peter 3:20); firmness or making firm (Phil 3:1, 1 Thes 5:3); healing and keeping from physical or spiritual destruction (2 Timothy 4:18).

4.2.2 Observations Safety is a universal human concern and, as such, is not derided in Scripture. Furthermore, Scripture makes clear that the source of safety is God (Ps 4:8, 119:117, Prov 18:10). There is admonishment for those who seek safety in others (Isa 30:2-3), and a warning not to trust in apparent safety which can change in an instant (Ezekiel 39:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:3). Safety is often demonstrated to be preservation through danger, rather than sheltering from danger (Acts 27:43-28:1, 1 Peter 3:20). It is commendable to provide safety for others (1 Samuel 22:23, 24:19), and safety is one of the traits of the covenant relationship with God fulfilled (Hosea 2:18).

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4.2.3 Summary on "Safety" God created humanity with an intrinsic desire for safety, which is intended to be fulfilled in Himself. Trust in circumstances or other protection/assistance is misleading and will disappoint. God may allow danger, but protects His people, sometimes by physical deliverance and sometimes by spiritual. The fulfillment of His kingdom will include complete safety, and rescue from all danger. 4.3 Security 4.3.1 Occurrences of the word security This word occurs 51 times in the NIV, often translated batach in Hebrew and amerimnos in the Greek text. In the Psalms, security comes from God, as He makes David's kingdom secure. In four of six references in the book of Proverbs, the word translated "security" is associated with godly character (integrity compared with taking crooked paths 10:9; fearing the Lord 14:26; love and faithfulness 20:28; judging the poor with fairness 27:24). In Proverbs 27:24 the context of the verse, "For riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations," is about the prudent stewardship of wealth and resources in light of fleeting riches and status. 4.3.2 Observations from the Old Testament Other Old Testament historical passages refer to security of groups and countries, as well as to individuals. One example that speaks of an individual is a prophecy about David, and interestingly it predicts that he will be secure even though currently he is being pursued by his enemy (1 Samuel 25:29). "Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my master will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the LORD your God. But the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling." 4.3.3 Prophetic literature and reference to false security. Most of the references here to security refer to people and nations God is judging, and typically are to a "false" sense of security against which they are warned.

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Isaiah 32 is instructive as the women of Jerusalem are warned against their complacency (32:9), and that their fortunes (characterized by prosperity and harvest) will change. What Isaiah associates with security is the coming of a righteous King, through whom His Spirit mediates justice. The direct effects of righteousness are peace and security (32:16-18.)
Justice will dwell in the desert and righteousness live in the fertile field. The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.

A similar passage is in Ezekiel 34 where God judges the shepherds of Israel for taking care of themselves, not the flock. The word "secure" here also describes the state of people who are cared for by God, the good shepherd, in the manner of David (Eze 32:27). Finally, in the Old Testament, in Zechariah 14, the prophet talks about the day of the Lord which ends in verse 11 with the words, "Jerusalem will be secure." However, the verses preceding it talks about the war and fleeing, danger and suffering that precedes the coming of the day of Jerusalem's security. 4.3.4 Observations from the New Testament New Testament references to security are mostly regarding objects being secured (tomb, jail, boat). Two other references include our hope being secure (Hebr 13) and our secure position (2 Pet 3). In Peter's epistle, the warning is against being carried away by the error and teaching of lawless men, and to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. 4.3.5 Summary on "Secure" The Hebrew word betach means confident, without danger or fear, and is used 42 times in the OT. One of the blessings of living obediently in covenant with God was that the land would yield plenty of food so the people could live securely (Leviticus 25:18-19, 26:5). Similar to the concept of "safety, "security" will be part of

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the covenant-fulfillment in the complete expression of the kingdom of God (Ez 34:27, Zech 14:11). Security is based on relationship with God (Deuteronomy 33:12), reverence for the Lord (Ps 112:8), a godly lifestyle (Prov 10:9, 14:26, 20:28, 29:14), and God's working out His plan for us (1 Sam 25:29, 2 Sam 23:5, Ps 112:8). In contrast, the feeling of security based on circumstances is unreliable and changeable (Ps 30:6), and even misleading when the judgment of God is imminent (Isa 32:9-11, Jer 22:21, Am 6:1). 4.4 Dang er 4.4.1 Observations In Proverbs (22:3 and 27:12), danger is meant to be avoided; a prudent person notices danger and takes refuge from it. There is no commendation for exposing oneself to danger that can be avoided. Similarly, in the temptations of Christ (Matthew 4, Luke 4), throwing Himself down from the temple would have constituted testing God, clearly a sin. However, danger is not to be feared; fear in the face of danger is depicted as a weakness (associated with aging in Ecclesiastes 12:5). Although one can say that fear is a neutral emotion and natural human response that can lead to appropriate action, there is fear that leads one away from faith in God. This is the fear that Scripture seems to speak against, and exhorts us to go to God in the face of fear and danger. Similarly, when the disciples were in danger during the storm, their fear represented lack of faith and failure to understand the identity of Jesus, for which they were rebuked. (Luke 8:23-25) Romans 8:35 reveals the limits of earthly dangers: they cannot separate us from the love of Christ. A danger that Scriptures says we should clearly avoid would be the peril of judgment for interpersonal sin (Matthew 5:22), and for fruitlessness despite God's blessings and revelation (Hebrews 6:8). Finally, Paul lists numerous dangers and hardships that demonstrate how committed he was to the apostolic call, yet preferred to boast about his weaknesses so they would provide a greater contrast against which the power of Christ could shine (2 Cor 11-12).

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4.4.2 Summary on "Danger" Danger is not to be sought, which would be testing God, nor to be feared, which would demonstrate lack of faith. Rather, earthly danger should be avoided (which is prudent), as should the spiritual danger of sinning (which would be presumption against God). Dangers encountered in the process of spreading the gospel are to be accepted, but their spiritual importance is primarily in the backdrop they provide for the glory and grace of God to be shown more clearly. Our motivation for tolerating these dangers is that the resurrection promises the abolition of death and the final subjection of all things to Jesus. (1 Cor 15:30) 5 Types of Risk: Toward a Biblical Classification. As we observe the biblical account, particularly 2 Cor 11:23-29, Paul's difficulties seem to fall into a small handful of categories which are corroborated with our experience on the field. If we can categorize types of risk and their biblical response, we may gain understanding in how to deal with the challenges we face. The following is a proposed classification, as well as observations of how they were handled. 5.1 Persecution This includes hostility and intentional harm against those who represent the gospel. There may be political or religious overlay, that is, the persecutors may be motivated by maintaining their power, or by defending their beliefs. Examples cited by Paul include being beaten, imprisoned, and stoned. In Acts, Paul was persecuted in numerous cities. Among the multitude of other biblical examples of overt persecution are the two spies sent by Joshua who hid and escaped (Joshua 2), Saul's attempts to capture and kill David (1 Samuel 18-24), the accusation of Daniel by other officials (Daniel 6), Jesus crucified by jealous religious leaders (Mark 15:10-15), and the imprisonment of Peter and John by the same leaders (Acts 4:1-3) In response to overt persecution, God's people usually escape if they can, hold firm to their faith

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in Christ (or God), and continue serving God or proclaiming the gospel in other regions. 5.2 Dangers intrinsic in traveling or living Examples from Paul include shipwreck, danger from robbers, danger on the sea and living out in the wild. A few contemporary examples include travel in small planes and landing on rough airstrips, driving through Yemen, unclean water, endemic disease such as malaria, etc. Simpler "risks" include loss of personal freedom such as modesty requirements (covering head, elbows and knees; public display of affection being illegal) and loss of the right to drive a motor vehicle or move about freely (usually for women). Biblically, the response seems to be to take normal precautions (such as not traveling by ship late in the season (Acts 27:9-10)), but to accept the risks and losses as part of the cost of bringing the gospel. The example of Jesus becoming poor so that we might become rich (2 Cor 8:9) may be instructive and encouraging. The sending organization may need to help the worker in a given situation assess whether the risk is excessive or avoidable. 5.3 Needs to keep the worker on the field long-term Biblical examples include Paul's funding by the Philippians (Philippians 4:14-18), and the stories of Elisha's "sons of the prophets": the widow's sons who were saved from the threat of being sold as slaves (2 Kings 4:1-7), provision during the famine (2 Kings 4:38-41), and restoration of the lost axe-head (2 Kings 6:1-7) Contemporary examples of these needs include visa, funding (with all its various cultural issues), spiritual fellowship, children's education, TCK issues (unwanted attention, taunting, re-entry), provision of healthcare, needs of family in home country, and resolution of team conflict. Organizations must develop systemic solutions to address many of these issues. They may need to mediate in conflict situations. Sometimes the solution requires leaving the field short-term to address issues, or providing medical or personal care. Also the organization may be called on to make the decision to temporarily ex-

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tract a worker, especially when the worker cannot make that judgment. 5.4 Strategies for developing the impact of ministry Biblically, Paul mentions his concern and burden for the churches (2 Corinthians 11:28-29). Other examples include Moses and Jethro organizing judging the Israelites (Exodus 18), and Nehemiah organizing the building of the wall by family residence (Nehemiah) Contemporary examples include growth of business impact, profitability and long-term viability, and professional development. The sending organization can help resource, train, network, and support their workers for growing ministry. It may be called upon to help evaluate the value and risks of ministry and lifestyle options for workers. 5.5 Summary These categories of risk describe function/purpose/cause, whereas the usual categories in risk management (financial, social, political,,,) describe the domain of society in which they take place. Therefore a grid or matrix could be constructed using these two types of categories as different dimensions, and any given risk can be categorized both by its function, and its realm. This categorization may help us analyze more specifically what response is appropriate theologically and practically. 6 Some Specific Paradoxes To conclude this study, we need to address some additional themes related to risk and security that are addressed in Scripture. In some instances, Scripture may seem to present incongruous positions that require some effort on our part to reconcile these concepts and arrive at a balanced approach. 6.1 Fine line of division betw een faith versus presumption Clearly, we see that in some situations that identical action at one point in time is characterized as faith and obedience, but later is rebellion and presumption. Godly decision-making cannot always

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be reduced to simple behavioral choices. One of clearest examples is the reaction to the report of the ten spies about the Promised Land (Num 13, 14). When God said, Go, and the people of Israel refused, even when they later changed their plan and course of action, it was too late - the time for obedience had passed. When they forged ahead, God was no longer in the plan; He was not with them (Num 14:42) to take the Promised Land and they suffered loss. We see a similar example in the kings of Israel and Judah. There were times they were to fight and times where they were commanded to settle down in the land of their captivity (Jer 29). In Judges 11, we see an example of a rash vow made by Jephthah in order to secure victory. When he needs to follow through and sacrifice his daughter, the consequences of his ungodly, rash decision is evident. Acts 5 records Gemaliel's counsel regarding how the Sanhedrin should treat the Christian witness. What follows is his theology that even in cases of martyrdom, the ultimate human sacrifice, God may or may not be in it. When choices are not purely moral, black and white categories, outside of clear revelation, then wisdom is required to discern the difference between faith and presumption, obedience and rebellion. Motivation and ones conscience are also important; Joseph (aka Barnabas) did a praiseworthy deed (Acts 4), but Ananias and Sapphira's action of generosity was cloaked in deception and was punished (Acts 5). Clearly from these examples, the action that appears "correct" is not sufficient and does not always constitute obedience. Motivation is important, but at the same time, discerning and having right motives may be an extremely complex exercise. 6.2 Christian mar tyrs vs suicide bombers? A related question of choices and behaviors involves whether there are differences in risk related to choices that the Christian versus non-Christian makes in order to further his cause? There are many non-Christians who risk career, financial resources, time and energy to further humanitarian causes. What

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are the differences? Is motivation or intentionality important? Does it matter if the person taking on the sacrifice did it willingly or not? One simplistic way is to acknowledge the goodness of their efforts, at the same time recognizing that in the end it is about choosing to serve Christ or not to serve Christ. In the parable of the sheep and the goats, the judgment made is not based on the good works or behavior, but rather on relationship and knowing Christ - I know you, versus I never knew you. An extreme of these behaviors and choices would be martyrdom or dying for the cause. In recent years there is much revival of the extreme form of risk and sacrifice, that of loss of life and martyrdom. The New Testament church grew in the midst of, in spite of, and possibly because of the witness and death of early church leaders. Some scholars believe that early church fathers such as Ignatius and Polycarp sought to imitate Christ and His sacrifice and went to their death. We can learn much from the study of martyrdom, and some have characterized the setting and phases in which this occurs: Opposition force who is in power and declares a transgression worthy of death; Conflict of loyalty that results in the Christian believer; Choice of death is better than apostasy; Interrogation and sentencing; Execution

Other authors have pointed out that even in settings where opposition is present to the Christian cause, there generally is a proclivity in the personality of the martyr to seek out a noble death. In other cases, the martyr did not make an active choice of death and the event may have been unpredictable, an accident. Whenever death occurs, Christians will endeavor to impart meaning to the sacrifice by ascribing its benefit (personal or corporate) and/or evidence of vindication by God as a result of the death. This is important to understand for our discussion of risk and security, as one of the larger issues in addition to risk-benefit assessment/ analysis is the assignment/ascription of meaning to any sacrificial

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act. Often this will be cast in a larger cosmic conflict type of narrative. In the absence of this, risk and danger incurred for the cause loses meaning, and events, especially those of accidental nature, are devoid of significance (an example is death due to friendly fire in times of war). Are there any differences between the Christian martyr and the jihadist who encourages suicide bombing and risk to expand his faith, gain community honor, and heavenly benefits? The immediate effect of such dramatic and phantasmagoric events may be common. Both may ascribe significance and rightness to their cause that is part of a larger cosmic narrative and spiritual struggle. However, the motivation for the Christian and jihadist is usually different. Hopefully, the danger and risk incurred by Christians is motivated by love, for God and others not for political gain or even the jihadist promise of heavenly benefit. Even when we entrust our lives to God and place ourselves in hostile territory and dangerous circumstances, we need to balance our enemy theology with how Jesus prayed for his enemies at the cross (Father forgive them). 6.3 Enter prise risk manag ement vs tr usting in God's provision Joseph planning for the famine, and Nehemiah rebuilding the wall are examples of godly people who oversaw major projects and engaged in enterprise or project risk management. We see in their lives examples of planning for the future, hedging against risks and danger, and ensuring the completion of the project, thus averting loss. Their methods have been used as models for other leaders to emulate and follow. How do we hold this in balance with Jesus command to not take a purse and to trust God for our resources (Luke 9, 10)? Jesus himself did not have a place to call home (Luke 9:58), and in the book of Acts we see apostles and early Christian workers dependent on the generous provision of others for their housing. There needs to be balance between our work and preparation and God's provision. Nehemiah depended on God to fight for them, but they also worked and held spears (Neh 4:20, 21). Jesus talks about

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the hostile context in which we live, how we are like sheep among wolves and, thus, are to be innocent yet shrewd (Mat 10:16). Later on in the same passage, Jesus cautions his disciples to be on guard against evil men, but then does not tell them to resist or fear, but to trust the Holy Spirit for words. In Mat 10, there seems to be an emphasis on getting the message out, and as people follow Christ in discipleship, they are witnesses to Him (vs 18). Paul talks about this balance, and our partnership where we work and toil, even as God works powerfully in and through us (Col 1:29). 6.4 Culture and convictions and acce ptable levels of risks In a global church and Christian ventures that are increasingly diverse in national and ethnic composition, misunderstandings as a result of cultural expectations and tolerance of risk and danger are increasingly encountered. How do we navigate these differences? In the Old Testament, Daniel and his three friends made some clear stands based on their conscience which were not understood by the Babylonians. We do not see other Jewish young people take a similar stand on these same issues. Furthermore, why did Daniel not resist having a pagan name and secular education, but draw the line when it came to defiled food? In the books of Acts, one could describe the Holy Spirit as our health care provider. However, in some countries, having access to affordable healthcare is an inalienable human right! Other examples of dealing with cultural differences are evident in the New Testament Church in Jerusalem as they had to meet the needs of Greek widows and deal with requirements for Gentile believers (Acts 15). We may need to acknowledge that some of what we deem as absolutes for us are culturally influenced, and agree upon a minimum expectation of what are acceptable risks that accompany mature Christian discipleship. There may then be, for believers from backgrounds with higher tolerance for risk and lack of comfort, broad areas of decision making that will require wisdom, grace and acceptance as they deal with their Christian brothers and sisters from cultures that are accustomed to much more "margin for error" in their provisions and resources.

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Additional differences may surface in how various cultures approach decision making, either from a more individualistic versus a more community-based worldview. The culture of an honor/shame, righteousness/guilt, or power/fear based society may also influence how people make decisions, also the emotional and cognative aspects in their approach to and acceptance of danger and risk. 6.5 Balancing obligations of individuals and organizations Finally, we will encounter points of tension and disagreement where the objectives and choices of the individual Christian conflict with those of an organization. More than likely, organizations with obligations for member care and protection of their workers will need to be more risk averse than an individual. We see this tension in Scripture as well where Jesus was asked by Peter not to go to the cross (Matthew 16:22,23), and Paul's friends trying to persuade him from traveling to Jerusalem and certain harm (Acts 21). Some would conclude that the Apostle Paul accepted the hardship as part of his apostolic calling, and that not all Christians are called to the same level of cross carrying. Certainly Christ affirmed that His followers should expect hardship, but each disciple's experience may be different (John 21:18-23). In the end, individuals will need to be responsible for their actions, and pursuing what God has commanded and called them to do. Perhaps somewhat unique to Christians and some other religious organizations is the role that the ultimate sacrifice, martyrdom, accomplishes. In most ventures, especially commercial enterprises, death is to be avoided at all costs. However, in Christianity (and Islam and other faiths), martyrdom and lesser degrees of suffering do bring about temporal and eternal benefits ("The Glory of Martyrdom" is an ancient article attributed by some to Cyprian). Christians are not to seek martyrdom actively, nor is martyrdom the highest virtue (1 Cor 13). Religious organizations and cause-based organizations are probably aided when martyrs who die for the cause are publicized. Therefore, organizations need to be cognizant of potential conflict of interest when decisions involving risk are

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made. What is good for an organization may not always be immediately beneficial for the individual. 6.6 Is there a risk free venture for the Christian work er? We have all heard promises of guaranteed returns for investments, many of which turn out to be scams. In the New Testament parable of the talents (Matthew 25 and Luke 19) it is implied that there is no risk free venture and that we are to put our resources to work for Kingdom purposes. In these stories, the servants' "investments" were made with real risk and no guarantee of a sure return. At the same time we are reminded that Jesus promises a sure reward to those who give up things in the cause of following Him (Matthew 19:29, Mark 10:29,30, Luke 18:29). When Christians pursue a project, enterprise or business, there is risk and no guarantee of operational or material success. Likewise, when believers operate and act in faith, the immediate outcomes are not always positive (Hebrews 11). Thus we need to hold in balance the tension that exists between our course of action without guaranteed outcomes, and the command to seek God's Kingdom and to deploy resources for His purposes (Matthew 6:33, James 4:3). As we noted previously, God is able to deliver, but He may not do so in all instances. We should also highlight the difference between risks taken by Christians versus non-Christians, as individuals and organizations. Ultimately, Christ will reign and be Lord. Those who choose to serve Christ, and have risked for Him, will receive their reward. Those who align themselves with His enemies will suffer loss. Thus, the ultimate outcome of those who choose to align themselves with Christ is different from the outcome for those who are not known by Him, even down to seemingly menial "investments" of water, clothing and prison visitation (parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25). 7 Conclusion We have sought to examine Scriptures for an understanding of the theology of risk and security. The goal is to arrive at a framework where Christian organizations and individuals can discuss risk

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management practices in the Arab world Muslim ministry context. We believe that Scripture affirms our hypothesis (with some modification). "When confronted by circumstances requiring personal decision and action where the temporal outcome is not known, Scripture commends the risk of (throwing away and devaluing) personal security and resources in obedience to God by faith. These decisions may be guided by our convictions and conscience (shaped by our calling), and result in actions wherein God is clearly working for the sake of His glory, and resulting in our good." As one approaches decisions involving risk and security, we suggest some of the following questions as a basis toward Godly decision-making. Assuming that the choice does not involve a moral decision or one in which personal conscience allows only one choice, then Is the activity proposed something that God is pleased with, and with us? Is the risk taken motivated out of a personal love for Christ and His purpose? Is there balance in how we are viewing our adversary, enemies of God yet enemies to be loved? Is there careful deliberation in the decision making process to avoid making an unwise, rash and regrettable decision or promise? Can we identify and classify in Biblical terms the actual risk that is proposed? Are there hidden, possibly ungodly motivations or agenda by the individual or organization that need to be surfaced and addressed? Are there areas in which the risk and benefits to individual and organization are not aligned, where there may be conflicting interests influencing decision making? Is there balance between trust in God for the outcome but not presuming on Him for a miracle? Is the risk worthy taking if the outcome is certain temporal failure or death?

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Is there proper due diligence done on our part as individuals and organizations to prepare for worst case scenarios? Are there cultural differences to risk tolerance that need to be addressed in order to arrive at meaningful understanding?

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Appendix: Case Studies from the Arabian Peninsula


These case studies are real examples that have surfaced in the last twelve months. We present them without additional commentary for use in group discussion or individual reflection. We suggest that one approach is to use the questions posed in the Conclusion section of this paper to discuss each case study. 1. U and O are believers from Muslim backgroung (BMB). O's employment is in a national institution where he is watched closely and always feels the danger of potential discovery. When workers are drinking coffee with U, her eyes scan the mall for anyone who might recognize her without her head cover. Their children are required to take Islamic education in school and are ridiculed by classmates as bad or ignorant Muslims. U has had several dreams and supernatural confirmations that the Lord wants them to adopt a child, an impossibility in either their home country or their current Gulf country. They are considering how to get a visa to the West. 2. K and N have served in a Gulf country for decades, where N is a pilot. Now their son is also a pilot and serving with the same company as N. However, this company is known to accept and license nationals who have consistently failed their exams in more regulated countries. If N flies with these nationals, his seniority can override them in safety issues. However, if their son flies with them, he will not be able to speak up about unsafe practices. 3. M has served in a developing country in the Arab world for decades. After a routine outpatient surgery, she developed a secondary infection. She could not get adequate pain treatment or antibiotics/surgery/drainage in her country. However, as her mindset is to accept extremely difficult living situations as a matter of course, she was severely infected and systemically ill before medical evacuation was mandated by her home national office. She has had to deal with the psychological trauma of repeated treatment without anesthesia as well.

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4. Workers in Gulf country Z have been kidnapped and executed recently, and several workers have been missing for over a year. The remaining workers fear similar events, and their ministry is affected by the concern. 5. Numerous workers in Gulf country C have been called in to the government officials and warned that their activities are known. Workers from Asian countries have had their visas revoked and been deported. Workers from Western countries are being closely watched and expect that their visas will not be renewed at expiration. Since networks were traced through telephone and email records, workers no longer contact each other, and the international church feels that they are too risky to have in attendance. All of this results in isolation and intimidation and withdrawing from outreach activities.

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THE MARTYRDOM OF IGNATIUS AND POLYCARP AS MODELS FOR SUFFERING FOR THE MODERN CHURCH
By Rev Dr John Stringer 1 1 Introduction The small and scattered churches of the first century after the New Testament period were forced to come to terms with questions related to suffering and martyrdom. They existed in an environment where Christians were distrusted, rejected and sometimes even persecuted unto death by the Roman State. In order to see what can be learned from these early churches, we will look at the letters of St Ignatius (ca. 40-110 AD), at the letter of St Polycarp (ca. 69-156 AD) to the church in Philippi and at the description of the death of Polycarp in the Martyrdom of St Polycarp. History does not repeat itself, so the lessons learned by the early Church are not necessarily applicable in our days; I do suggest, however, that we look carefully at the attitudes and responses of the early Church to see whether some of what they learned could also be useful nowadays. 2 State and Church in the Roman Empire (100-150 AD) The question of why Christians were persecuted by the Roman State is not easy to answer. Much depended on local governors and how zealously they wanted to prosecute Christians. Contemporary pagan and Christian sources mention different accusations against the Christians. These included charges of incest and cannibalism, maybe resulting from the rites which Christians celebrated in necessary secrecy - the agape (the love-feast) and the Eucharist (partaking of the body and blood of Christ). Pagans were also suspicious of the Christian refusal to sacrifice to the Roman gods. The Roman State and civilized society be-

The author has been a longterm missionary in the Arab World.

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lieved that its integrity and strength largely depended on the common veneration of the Emperor. This had a political and a religious aspect. People were allowed to believe whatever they wanted in the large and multicultural empire, but adherence to the state, shown by sacrificing to the genius of the emperor, was considered the most important integrating factor that kept the empire together. Refusal to do so was, in the eyes of the rulers and many of their subjects, a threat to the harmony of the empire and therefore a matter of treason. Sacrificing to the Emperor became an easy way by which the authorities tested whether someone was a Christian. Whether individuals committed any wrongs from the perspective of Roman law, was irrelevant. To call oneself a Christian was proof enough that one should be punished by death.2 Islam and many Islamic regimes have a comparable approach to the harmony of the State and the loyalty of its citizens. Anyone inside the Islamic Ummah has reasonable freedom to believe whatever he or she wants, but to leave the Ummah by formally leaving Islam is unforgivable. It is seen as treason, and it is, according to the orthodox interpretation of the Islamic Shariah, punishable by death. 3 Ignatius of Antioch 3.1 Ignatius and his last journey Ignatius (ca. 40-110 AD) was the third bishop of Antioch in Syria, after the Apostle Peter and Evodius.3 Ignatius was arrested in Antioch and taken to Rome by ten Roman soldiers. The journey went overland through present-day Turkey via the northern Roman highway, to Laodicea, Philadelphia, Sardis and Smyrna. In Smyrna, Ignatius was allowed to receive visitors; representatives from the churches in Tralles, Magnesia and Ephesus spent time with him, to encourage him and to ask for his ecclesial advice. Tralles, Magnesia and Ephesus were cities on the southern Roman highway that were
2 Ch. Munier, Cult of the Emperor, in Angelo di Berardino, Encyclopedia of the Early Church Vol 1 (Cambridge, 1992), p. 271. 3 According to Eusebius (263-339 AD), bishop of Caesarea in Palestine. Eusebius, Historiae Ecclesiastica, III.22.1 and III.36.2.

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not visited by Ignatius. Those who had visited him from these churches carried letters from Ignatius back with them. From Smyrna, Ignatius also had a letter sent to the church in Rome to prepare them for his arrival. We know that he wrote this letter on 24 August; Ignatius does not mention the year.4 The journey continued to Troas, from where Ignatius sent letters to the churches in Philadelphia and Smyrna, two of the cities he had visited previously. From Troas he also wrote a more personal letter to his friend Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna. Then Ignatius was taken to Philippi where the church received him warmly. We know this because Polycarp later thanks that church for its hospitality to Ignatius.5 The journey continued to Rome where Ignatius was executed. There was enough confusion about the execution of Ignatius that his friend Polycarp was unsure of what actually happened in Rome; he wrote to the church in Philippi to find out what they knew about the last days of Ignatius.6 The stories of his martyrdom by so-called eyewitnesses were late fabrications.7 3.2 Ignatius attitude to martyrdom On his way to Rome, Ignatius writes that in the capital city he expected to be eaten by wild animals in the arena. He hopes to convince the Roman Christians not to try to save him from martyrdom, even if they can:8
I am afraid of your love, in that it may do me wrong; for it is easy for you to do what you want, but it is difficult for me to reach God unless you spare me. For I do not want you to please people but to please God, as you in fact are doing. For I will never again have an opportu-


4 Ignatius to the Church in Rome, 10:1-3. I do not know why Clayton Jefford says it is not clear from what city Ignatius wrote this letter to Rome, as Smyrna is explicitly mentioned in 10:1. See Clayton N. Jefford, The Apostolic Fathers and the New Testament (Peabody, 2006), p. 11. 5 Polycarp to the Church in Philippi, 1:1; 9:1. 6 Ibid., 13:2. 7 Michael M. Holmes (editor and translator), The Apostolic Fathers; Greek Texts and English Translations (Grand Rapids, 1992, 2007), p. 10. 8 I use the English translations by Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers.

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nity such as this to reach God, nor can you, if you remain silent, be credited with a greater accomplishment. For if you remain silent and leave me alone, I will be a word of God; but if you love my flesh, then I will again be a mere voice. Grant me nothing more than to be poured out as an offering to God while there is still an altar ready. (Ignatius, Romans 1:2-2:2)

Let me be food for the wild beasts, through whom I can reach God. (Ign, Rom 4:1) He hopes wild animals will eat him fully, so that I will truly be a disciple of Jesus Christ, when the world will no longer see my body. (Ign, Rom 4:2) He considers his anticipated death to be a sacrifice to God (Ign, Rom 4:2) and asks the Church in Rome: Allow me to be an imitator of the suffering of my God. (Ign, Rom 6:3). In vivid language Ignatius speaks of his desire to suffer for Christ:
From Syria all the way to Rome I am fighting with wild beasts, on land and sea, by night and day, chained amidst ten leopards (that is, a company of soldiers) who only get worse when they are well treated. Yet because of their mistreatment I am becoming more of a disciple; nevertheless I am not thereby justified. May I have the pleasure of the wild beasts that have been prepared for me; and I pray that they prove to be prompt with me. I will even coax them to devour me quickly, not as they have done with some, whom they were too timid to touch. And if when I am willing and ready and they are not, I will force them. Bear with me I know what is best for me. Now at last I am beginning to be a disciple. May nothing visible or invisible envy me, so that I may reach Jesus Christ. Fire and cross and battle with wild beasts, mutilation, mangling, wrenching of bones, the hacking of limbs, the crushing of my whole body, cruel tortures of the devil let these come upon me, only let me reach Jesus Christ! (Ign, Rom 5:1-3)

In his other letters, Ignatius writes similar things, but less extensive. To the Church in Ephesus he writes that he expects to fight wild animals in Rome in order that by so succeeding I might be able to be a disciple. (Ignatius, Ephesians 1:2) In this letter he further says: For even though I am in chains for the sake of the Name, I have not yet been perfected in Jesus Christ. For now I am only beginning to be a disciple. (Ign, Eph 3:1) His chains are spiritual pearls for Ignatius. (Ign, Eph 11:2) He hopes that carrying

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those, as well as the prayers of the Ephesians, will make him rise again from the dead. (Ign, Eph 11:2) I am being led to Rome in chains, as I the very least of the faithful there have been judged worthy of serving the glory of God. (Ign, Eph 21:2) To the Church in Tralles, Ignatius writes: I strongly desire to suffer (Ignatius, Trallians 4:2) and that he carries his chains for the sake of Jesus Christ. (Ign, Trall 12:2) He asks all churches for their prayers in order that I may reach God. (Ignatius, Magnesians 14) 3.3 Harmony and heresies 3.3.1 Unity of the Church through submission Ignatius seems to be more worried about the state of the churches he has been in touch with than with his own expected martyrdom. The two overriding themes in his seven letters are those of the urgency of the unity of the Church and of its need to ward off heresies. Ignatius writes much about how the monarchial bishop and his priests and deacons have to relate. Ignatius is, for instance, pleased with the situation in the church of Magnesia, because the priests are subject to their bishop as to the Father of Jesus Christ, the bishop of all. (Ign, Magn 3:1) He commends the deacon Zotion from Magnesia because he is subject to the bishop as to the grace of God, and to the council of presbyters as to the law of Jesus Christ. (Ign, Magn 2) Here is a representative selection of quotes from Ignatius letter to the Magnesians showing his desire for unity through obedience:
Be eager to do everything in godly harmony, the bishop presiding in the place of God and the presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles and the deacons, who are especially dear to me, since they have been entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ. (Ign, Magn 6:1) Let there be nothing among you that is capable of dividing you, but be united with the bishop and with those who lead. (Ign, Magn 6:2) Therefore, as the Lord did nothing without the Father [] so you must not do anything without the bishop and the presbyters. [] Let all of you run together as to one temple of God, as to one altar, to one Jesus Christ. (Ign, Magn 7:1-2)

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Ignatius writes similar things in all letters. Of interest are Ignatius statements that all must be done in godly harmony (Mag 6:1) and that the church must run together [in harmony] with the mind of the bishop. (Ign, Eph 4:2) Christians are also called to be harmonious in unanimity in their worship of Jesus Christ.9 (Ign, Eph 4:2) These concepts were congruent with the Roman States desire for harmony. We meet here with the idea of the church being an alternative kingdom and a spiritual empire. That Christians did not want to sacrifice to the genius of the Emperor could easily be explained as a Christian rejection of the unity of the Roman Empire, notwithstanding the fact that they proved to be loyal citizens. Harmony in the Church was a typical contextual moral ideal. Not only from Ignatius but also in other Christian literature from this period, harmony is presented as an important moral good. In 1 Clement for instance, written by Clement of Rome around 95 AD, we see a similar stress on the need for harmony in the Church. Clement uses the concept, just as Ignatius does, in the context of unity in the Church through submission to its leadership. 3.3.2 Heresy of docetism Harmony in the Church through submission is for Ignatius not only morally good in itself, but it is also the major antidote against heresy in the Church. He writes to the Philadelphians:
Flee from division and false teaching. Where the shepherd is, there follow like sheep. For seemingly trustworthy wolves attempt [to take you captive]; but in your unity they will find no opportunity. (Ignatius, Philadelphians 2:1)

Ignatius warns the churches about two heresies. The first one was Judaism, the original religion of many members of the churches. The other heresy is docetism. (from Gr: dokein = to seem, to appear) This gnostic doctrine taught that Christ's body was not human but either a phantasm or of real but celestial substance, and that therefore his sufferings were only apparent. Especially in the letter to


9 Ignatius uses the Greek harmonia in Magn 6:1. In Eph 4:2 he uses the Greek terms symphoonoi en homonoia. Symphoonoi is used in the New Testament; the other terms are never used in the New Testament.

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Smyrna, Ignatius stresses the physicality of Jesus. He praises the church because it is:
[] established in an unshakable faith, having been nailed, as it were, to the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ in both body and spirit, and firmly established in love by the blood of Christ, totally convinced with regard to our Lord that he is truly of the family of David with respect to human descent, Son of God with respect to the divine will and power, truly born of a virgin, baptized by John [], truly nailed in the flesh for us under Pontius Pilate and Herod the tetrarch - from its fruit we derive our existence, that is, from his divinely blessed suffering. (Ignatius, Smyrna 1:1-2) [He] truly suffered just as he truly raised himself not, as certain unbelievers say, that he suffered in appearance [Gr: dokein] only. (Ign, Smyr 2) For I know and believe that he was in the flesh even after the resurrection; and when he came to Peter and those with him, he said to them: Take hold of me; handle me and see that I am not a disembodied demon. And immediately they touched him and believed, being closely united with his flesh and blood. For this reason they too despised death; indeed, they proved to be greater than death, and after his resurrection he ate and drank with them like one who is composed of flesh, although spiritually he was united with the Father. (Ign, Smyr 3:1-3) For if these things were done by our Lord in appearance [Gr: dokein] only, then I am in chains in appearance only. Why, moreover, have I surrendered myself to death, to fire, to sword, to beasts? (Ign, Smyr 4:2) [Not] confessing that he was clothed in flesh? Anyone who does not acknowledge this thereby denies him completely. (Ign, Smyr 5:2)

These quotes show, among other things, that docetism for Ignatius meant the denial of the value of his own physical Via Dolorosa.
But if, as some atheists (that is, unbelievers) say, he suffered in appearance only [], why am I in chains? And why do I fight with wild beasts? If that is the case, I die for no reason; what is more, I am telling lies about the Lord. (Ign, Tral 10)

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The letters to the other churches contain similar emphasis on the physicality of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 3.3.3 Eucharist Interesting also, is that for these docetists Holy Eucharist was meaningless. They rejected it because it signified the physicality of the body of the Lord Jesus Christ. See for instance what Ignatius writes to Smyrna:
Even the heavenly beings and the glory of angels and the rulers, both visible and invisible, are subject to judgment if they do not believe in the blood of Christ. [] They abstain from Eucharist and prayer because they refuse to acknowledge that the Eucharist is the flesh of our savior Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins and which the Father by his goodness raised up. (Ign, Smyr 6:1-2)

To the Philadelphians, Ignatius writes that the heretics and schismatics disconnect themselves from the Kingdom of God; such people separate themselves from the suffering of Christ and from Holy Eucharist:
For all those who belong to God and Jesus Christ are with the bishop, and all those who repent and enter into the unity of the church will belong to God, so that they may be living in accordance with Jesus Christ. Do not be misled, my brothers: if any follow a schismatic, they will not inherit the Kingdom of God. If any hold to alien views, they disassociate themselves from the passion. Take care, therefore, to participate in one Eucharist (for there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup that leads to unity through his blood; there is one altar, just as there is one bishop, together with the council of presbyters and deacons). (Ign, Phil 3:2-4:1)

The unity of the church around the bishop is for Ignatius the sine qua non of being able to celebrate Holy Eucharist and of being connected with the suffering of Jesus Christ. Without being subjected to the bishop and his priests, there is no proper Eucharist and no unity with the suffering of Christ, hence no salvation in eternity. This means that celebrating Eucharist is of utmost importance:
Therefore make everyone to come together more frequently to give thanks and glory to God. For when you meet together frequently, the

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powers of Satan are overthrown and his destructiveness is nullified by the unanimity (Gr: homonoia) of your faith. (Ign, Eph 13:1) All of you [] gather together [] in order that you may obey the bishop and the council of presbyters with an undisturbed mind, breaking one bread, which is the medicine of immortality, the antidote we take in order not to die but to live forever in Jesus Christ. (Ign, Eph 20:2)

3.4 Assessment of Ignatius model Ignatius considers his anticipated martyrdom as the ultimate participation in the suffering of Jesus Christ and as the final stage in becoming a true follower of Christ. His martyrdom is a sacrifice to God and will finally make him rise from the dead to bring him to God and Jesus Christ. He assumes his death will be a stronger witness to Christ than his life could ever be; he is therefore eager not to escape from the honor. The physicality of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is of utmost importance for Ignatius, as he endures similar physical suffering and sets his hope on the physical resurrection in order to be with God. This suffering of Christ is reflected in the tangible Holy Eucharist that connects Ignatius with the Lord who suffered and rose again. Participation in this suffering of Christ through Eucharist is worked out in his own death for Christ. For celebrating the proper Eucharist that connects the believer with Jesus Christ, unity of the Church under its proper leadership is important. This unity of the Church, a proper view of Jesus Christ and Eucharist, are threatened by heretics and schismatics. For Ignatius, the pain of suffering is of lesser weight than the pain of heresy and division. A focus on Church unity through the office of the bishop (not an administrator but a teacher of apostolic orthodoxy!) was practical and necessary at a time when heretics were teaching that Christ did not physically suffer or rise from the dead.

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4 Polycarp of Smyrna 4.1 Polycarps life and death Our best information about Polycarp comes from Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons in the second part of the second century. He had been a pupil of Polycarp in his younger years in Smyrna, where Polycarp was the bishop. According to Irenaeus, Polycarp had been a student of St John the Apostle in Ephesus. Polycarp also met with others who had seen Jesus Christ in the body. Polycarp was already bishop when Ignatius passed through his city in ca. 110 AD. He received a letter from Ignatius and he collected Ignatius correspondence in order to make this available to others. Polycarp wrote a letter to the church in Philippi shortly after Ignatius had been there. Irenaeus writes that Polycarp wrote more, but this is the only letter of his that we have.10 Polycarp was deeply attached to maintaining the pure apostolic message. One time, when he met the arch-heretic Marcion in the street, Marcion asked Polycarp whether he recognized him. According to Irenaeus, Polycarp answered: Sure, I recognize you as the firstborn of Satan!11 Toward the end of his life, Polycarp visited Rome to discuss certain ecclesial matters with bishop Anicetus. One issue was the date for the celebration of Easter. In Rome this was done on a set Sunday in the Roman solar calendar. In the East, the churches celebrated Easter on the Jewish date of 14 Nizan, in accordance with the lunar calendar. The brothers did not resolve their difference; Polycarp wanted to stick to the date that he had learned from the Apostle John. This matter did not fracture their Christian communion; before Polycarp went back to Smyrna, he was asked to celebrate Eucharist in Rome.12

10 Jack N. Sparks (ed), The Apostolic Fathers; New translations of these early Christian writings (Nashville, 1989), p. 123. 11 Ireneaus, Adversus Haereses, 3:3-4. 12 Sparks, The Apostolic Fathers, p. 123. J. Danielou, Geschiedenis van de Kerk Deel 1 (Hilversum, 1963), p. 122.

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In ca. 155 AD Polycarp was martyred in Smyrna; he was 86 years old at that time.13 We have no absolute certainty about the year but we know it occurred on 22 or 23 February, because the hagiographic Martyrdom of Polycarp says it happened seven days before the Calends of March, a Great Sabbath, at 8 oclock.14 This was under the reign of the Roman Emperor Antonius Pius (138-161 AD) who was responsible for much persecution of the Church. Maybe the concrete cause for the persecution of Polycarp was related to some earthquakes that had occurred in the region of Ephesus; the local population held the Christians responsible.15 4.2 Polycarps letter to the Church in Philippi 4.2.1 Content of the letter Polycarp writes in his letter to the church in Philippi that one must be obedient to the presbyters and deacons as to God and Christ. (Polycarp, Philippians, 5:3) This attitude concurs with the milieu of the letters of Ignatius, though Polycarp makes no mention of the role of the bishop. The docetist belief that Ignatius countered so strongly is also attacked by Polycarp:
For everyone who does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is antichrist; and whoever does not acknowledge the testimony of the cross is of the devil; and whoever twists the sayings of the Lord to suit his own sinful desires and claims that there is neither resurrection nor judgment well, that person is the firstborn of Satan. (Pol, Phil 7:1)


13 Jefford, The Apostolic Fathers and the New Testament, pp. 13-14. Jefford agrees to date the death of Polycarp around 155-156 AD. He disagrees with Eusebius who says Polycarp died under Marcus Aurelius. That would have meant around 167 AD. As Polycarp was 86 when he died, and as we know he was bishop around 110 AD, this would make him a very young bishop. 14 Martyrdom of Polycarp, Appendix 1. 15 Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of the Expansion of Christianity Vol 1). The First Five Centuries (Grand Rapids, 1937, 1976), p. 143. Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers, p. 272.

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Polycarp calls the chains of the persecuted saints he probably refers directly to Ignatius and his group suitable for saints, [] the diadems of those who are truly chosen by God and our Lord. (Pol, Phil 1:1) In this context he stresses that Jesus Christ endured for our sins, facing even death, but God raised [him] up. (Pol, Phil 1:2) God raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead and gave him glory and a throne at his right hand. [] But the one who raised him from the dead will raise us also, if we do his will. (Pol, Phil 2:12) If we please him in this present world, we will receive the world to come as well, inasmuch as he promised that he will raise us from the dead [] if we continue to believe. (Pol, Phil 5:2) That we have to read these statements as encouragement for the Philippians to stand strong in times of suffering, is clear:
Let us, therefore, become imitators of his patient endurance, and if we should suffer for the sake of his name, let us glorify him. For this is the example he set for us in his own person, and this is what we have believed. (Pol, Phil 8:2)

Polycarp urges the church to obey the teaching about righteousness and to exercise unlimited endurance. As an example of this endurance, Polycarp points to that which you saw with your own eyes not only in the blessed Ignatius and Zosimus and Rufus but also in others from your own congregation and in Paul himself and the rest of the apostles. (Pol, Phil 9:1) He says:
Be assured that all these did not run in vain but with faith and righteousness, and that they are now in the place due them with the Lord, with whom they also suffered. For they did not love the present world but the one who died on our behalf and was raised by God for our sakes. (Polyc, Phil 9:2) Stand fast, therefore, in these things and follow the example of the Lord, firm and immovable in faith, loving the family of believers, cherishing one another, united in the truth, giving way to one another in the gentleness of the Lord, despising no one. When you are able to do good, do not put it off, because charity delivers one from death. All of you be subject to one another, and maintain an irreproachable standard of conduct among the Gentiles, so that you may be praised for your

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good deeds and the Lord may not be blasphemed because of you. (Pol, Phil 10:1-2)

Polycarp asks the congregation in Philippi to pray for the saints, for kings and magistrates, for those who persecute the church in Philippi and for all enemies of the cross. It is interesting to note, in this context, that as the theme for these prayers Polycarp only mentions that your fruit may be evident among all people. (Pol, Phil 12:3) In the midst of persecution the witness of the Church is his major concern. Both the church in Philippi and Ignatius had asked Polycarp to make sure that the letter to the church in Philippi (the letter Ignatius wrote to that church?) should be delivered to the church of Ignatius in Antioch. Polycarp probably received this letter from the emissary of Philippi who also asked some questions related to the problems in his church. Polycarps letter is an answer to this request. The emissary had also asked for copies of all letters of Ignatius that Polycarp had already collected; these he mailed to them as an attachment to his letter. (Pol, Phil, 13:1-2) Polycarp encourages the Philippians to carefully study the letters of St Paul. (Pol, Phil 3:2) He writes that he is convinced that [they] are all well trained in the sacred scriptures. (Pol, Phil 12:1) He also recommends the letters of Ignatius: You will be able to receive great benefit from them, for they deal with faith and patient endurance and every kind of spiritual growth that has to do with the Lord. (Pol, Phil 13:2) 4.2.2 Assessment of Polycarps attitudes in his letter Like Ignatius, Polycarp instructs the believers to be united under their proper leadership. He also fiercely attacks docetist views that minimize the physicality of Jesus suffering. Polycarp lays much stress on the need for a good Christian lifestyle and for endurance. The example of Jesus death is often used, always combined with his resurrection. That promise of resurrection is held before the believers in Philippi. If by following Christ they suffer, they are also assured of resurrection and eternal life if only they hold on to the faith.

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Polycarp considers the letters of Ignatius, who suffered for the faith, an important tool for helping people to also show proper endurance and maintain the faith. 4.3 The M artyrdom of Polycarp 4.3.1 Occasion of this M artyrdom The letter Martyrdom of Polycarp was written by Evarestus of the church of Smyrna, where Polycarp had been the bishop, to the church in Philomelium. (Martyrdom of Polycarp, Salutation, 20:2) This church had asked for an account of the death of Polycarp. The Martyrdom was written with the assumption that churches elsewhere would also be interested in the document, as it is also addressed to all the communities of the holy and catholic church sojourning in every place. The letter was delivered to Philomenium by a certain Marcion with the request to also send the letter on to the brothers and sisters who are farther away, in order that they too may glorify the Lord. (Mart 20:2) The letter is most likely based on the testimony of one or more eyewitnesses, but it is not their primary testimony. The Martyrdom has clearly seen some careful literary and theological editing. Maybe Evarestus was this theological editor?16 Irenaeus, who had been a student of Polycarp, possessed a copy of the Martyrdom. This attests to its genuineness and antiquity. We know this, because those who later copied the letter added their own short appendix to it:
Gaius (who lived in the same city as Irenaeus) transcribed this account from the papers of Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp. And I, Socrates, wrote it down in Corinth from the copies of Gaius. (Mart 22:2)

4.3.2 Accusation against Polycarp and his death Polycarp was the last of a group of twelve Christians put to death in and around Smyrna. (Mart 19:1) His death put an end to the persecution, as though he was setting his seal upon it. (Mart 1:1) Some people were torn apart by whips, others were burned, and others again were eaten by wild beasts. (Mart 2:2-4) When a large


16

Jefford, The Apostolic Fathers and the New Testament, pp. 23-24.

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crowd in the stadium of Smyrna saw Germanicus eaten by the beasts, the crowd asked for Polycarp to be killed as well. Away with the atheists! Find Polycarp! (Mart 3:1-2) When Polycarp was caught, the officers asked him: Why, what harm is there in saying, Caesar is Lord, and offering incense? (Mart 8:2) This was the normal manner by which people could prove that they were not Christians; it showed their loyalty to the State and its religion.17 Somewhat later the Roman officers tried it again: Swear by the genius of Caesar; repent; say: Away with the atheists! [] Swear the oath, and I will release you; revile Christ. (Mart 9:2-3) Polycarp refused:
For eighty-six years I have been his servant, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me? (Mart 9:3)

After the proconsul had questioned Polycarp he sent his herald to the stadium to proclaim three times: Polycarp has confessed that he is a Christian. (Mart 12:1). Being a Christian was enough for being put to death. The crowd enthusiastically shouted, This is the teacher of Asis, the father of the Christians, the destroyer of our gods, who teaches many not to sacrifice or to worship. (Mart 12:2) Polycarp was then killed by fire. Evarestus describes a miracle: Polycarp did not burn, but he was baked like bread. The executioners therefore also stabbed his body; a dove came out of Polycarp and he shed so much blood that the fire was extinguished. (Mart 15:216:1) His corpse was then cremated. (Mart 18:1) 4.3.3 Martyrdom according to the Gospel The death of Polycarp was a lesson for the church: For nearly all the preceding events happened in order that the Lord might show us once again a martyrdom that is in accord with the gospel. (Mart 1:1) The writer then suggests what proper martyrdom is:
For he waited to be betrayed, just as the Lord did, in order that we too might be imitators of him, looking not only to our own interests but to our neighbors interests as well. For it is the mark of true and steadfast


17

Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers, p. 298.

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love to desire that not only oneself be saved but all the brothers and sisters as well. (Mart 1:2)

Evarestus taught that martyrdom should not be pursued because Christians have a role to play in life, namely, helping others to be saved. As an example of how not to behave, a certain Phrygian man, Quintus, is mentioned. He had arrived shortly before Polycarps martyrdom. He had forced himself and some others to come forward voluntarily for becoming martyrs. This was not right: We do not praise those who hand themselves over, since the gospel does not so teach. The fact that Quintus turned coward when he saw the wild beasts, and that he swore the oath and sacrificed to the genius of the Emperor, only underlined that such voluntary martyrdom is not blessed by God. (Mart 4) Polycarp, however, when he knew that he was being sought, moved from house to house. (Mart 5:1, 6:1) The letter praises as blessed and noble all martyrdoms that were in accordance with the will of God, and though it recognizes that the devil is the one behind persecution, it defends the idea that God also plays a role in it: We must reverently assign to God the power over all things. The Martyrdom speaks of the nobility and patient endurance and loyalty to the Master of some people who had shortly before been martyred in or around Smyrna. (Mart 2:2) With their example they showed true martyrdom: Not one of them uttered a cry or a groan, [] showing to us all that at the very hour when they were being tortured the martyrs of Christ were absent from the flesh, or rather that the Lord was standing by and conversing with them. (Mart 2:2)
Turning their thoughts to the grace of Christ they despised the tortures of this world, purchasing at the cost of one hour an exemption from eternal punishment. And the fire of their inhuman torturers felt cold to them, for they set before their eyes the escape from that eternal fire which is never extinguished, while with the eyes of their heart they gazed upon the good things that are reserved for those who endure patiently [] that were shown to them by the Lord, for they were no longer humans, but angels (Mart 2:3)

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Polycarp considered the fire of torture small compared to eternal damnation. He refused to be scared by the threats of torture: You threaten me with a fire that burns only briefly and after just a little while is extinguished, for you are ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and eternal punishment (Mart 11:2) The Martyrdom describes how the pire for the fire was prepared, and how Polycarp was placed on top of it, his hands behind himself and having been bound, like a splendid ram chosen from a great flock for a sacrifice, a burnt offering prepared and acceptable to God. (Mart 14:1) Polycarp prayed before the pire was lighted. It is unlikely that his exact words are used in the Martyrdom, but we do learn how the church viewed his death. The prayer was clearly Eucharistic; the death of Polycarp was seen as related to the death of Christ and the body and blood of Christ in Eucharist:18
O Lord God Almighty, Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have received knowledge of you, the God of angels and powers and of all creation, and of the whole race of the righteous who live in your presence, I bless you because you have considered me worthy of this day and hour, so that I might receive a place among the number of the martyrs in the cup of your Christ, to the resurrection to eternal life, both of soul and of body, in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. May I be received among them in your presence today, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, as you have prepared and revealed beforehand, and have now accomplished, you who are the undeceiving and true God. For this reason, indeed for all things, I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you, through the eternal and heavenly high priest, Jesus Christ, your beloved Son, through whom be glory to you, with him and the Holy Spirit, both now and for the ages to come. Amen. (Mart 14:1-3)

It is also likely that this sacrificial and Eucharistic aspect of Polycarps death was what the author had in mind when he spoke of

18 This prayer of Polycarp is very interesting as it is most likely modeled on existent liturgical prayers that were used in the early church. Jack N. Sparks had footnoted this prayer to show many parallelisms to and quotes from Biblical and early Christian literature. Sparks (ed), The Apostolic Fathers, pp. 145-147.

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martyrdom in accord with the gospel. Maybe the fact that Polycarp was baked like bread must also be seen in this Eucharistic context. The story of Polycarp is told in a manner that suggests that the editor wanted to use as many parallelisms as he could to the suffering and death of Jesus Christ.19 His persecutor is called Herod, he is seen as riding on a donkey, he died on a Friday, etc. The parallelisms are not perfectly worked out; this makes Clayton Jefford conclude that we can therefore believe that not all facts around the arrest, court case and death of the bishop have been adapted.20 What the Martyrdom does underline with its literary approach is that true martyrs are in fact doing nothing but following their Master. 4.3.4 Veneration of the saints The Martyrdom was not written with our modern views of scientific historiography. It was intended to venerate Polycarp and to educate the readers. Though the actual death by fire of Polycarp is not doubted, we cannot be sure that all aspects of the story are historically correct, like a dove coming out of the corpse of Polycarp, or his blood quenching the fire. The Martyrdom is our oldest example of how the early Church began to venerate its martyred saints, and the letter also became the standard for how later hagiography would be written.21 The letter itself is a form of veneration, but it also describes how the believers in Smyrna venerated Polycarp, even before he died:
[A]ll the faithful were always eager to be the first to touch his flesh. For he had been honored in every respect on account of his holy life even before his martyrdom. (Mart 13:2)

After Polycarp had died, the enemies of the Church wanted his body to be cremated, or else [the Christians] may abandon the crucified one and begin to worship this man. (Mart 17:2) The author of the Martyrdom comments with a lesson for the readers:

19 Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers, p. 299-9. Jefford sums up these parallelisms in The Apostolic Fathers and the New Testament, pp. 122-123. 20 Jefford, The Apostolic Fathers and the New Testament, p. 123. 21 Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers, p. 298.

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They did not know that we would never be able either to abandon the Christ who suffered for the salvation of the whole world of those who are saved, the blameless on behalf of sinners, or to worship anyone else. For we worship this one, who is the Son of God, but the martyrs we love as disciples and imitators of the Lord, as they deserve, on account of their matchless devotion to their own King and Teacher. May we also become their partners and fellow disciples! (Mart 17:2-3)

What was left of Polycarp were his bones. These were later collected by the church of Smyrna as they were considered to be more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and they were deposited in a suitable place: (Mart 18:1-2)
There, when we gather together as we are able, with joy and gladness, the Lord will permit us to celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom in commemoration of those who have already fought in the contest and also for the training and preparation of those who will do so in the future. (Mart 18:3)

There were altogether twelve martyrs in the area of Smyrna, but Polycarp was especially remembered as a distinguished teacher and as an outstanding martyr whose martyrdom all desire to imitate since it was in accord with the pattern of the gospel of Christ. (Mart 19:1) Until today he is remembered in the liturgy of most churches on 23 February:
By his endurance he defeated the unrighteous magistrate and so received the crown of immortality; now he rejoices with the apostles and all the righteous, and glorifies the almighty God and Father, and blesses our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of our souls and Helmsman of our bodies and Shepherd of the catholic church throughout the world. (Mart 19:2) 4.3.5 Assessment of the M artyrdoms views

The Martyrdom was based on eyewitness accounts, but it has been theologically edited. It shows the radical devotion of Bishop Polycarp to Jesus Christ, even in the face of death. He is not prepared to recant his faith. The letter was intended for the edification of the worldwide Church, to know what true martyrdom entails. It makes clear that

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Christians must not seek for martyrdom but, when it comes, they ought to face it bravely. Martyrs are in fact a sacrifice to God, in the line of Jesus Christ and his Holy Eucharist. This very close unity with Jesus Christ in death guarantees salvation. In the hour of need, God supports martyrs by his very close presence. The short pains faced in the last hour are only small compared with the fire of hell, and perseverance leads to eternal salvation. The Church at the time of Polycarp showed great love for its martyrs. Martyrs were not forgotten, but they were commemorated as examples for the living Church, even in the liturgy of the Church. 5 Lessons from the early church about suffering for Christ What must be taught and practiced in churches in an environment of potential suffering and martyrdom is, among other things, the following: 1. When Christians are asked to give up their faith and recognize other religions or ideologies as true, in opposition to the Christian faith, they must not compromise. This is not negotiable. 2. Suffering must never be sought but, when it comes, it must be seen as something of great value for God. It is being a sacrifice for God, in participation with Jesus Christ and the Eucharist. It is the highest form of discipleship, the grand finale of following Jesus Christ. It is therefore something to be proud of. 3. A strong focus in the church is needed on the physicality of Jesus Christ, on his physical death and resurrection, on the eternal blessing of the saints and on eternal punishment for those who do not hold on to Christ. The physicality of this should be underlined. 4. The Church must celebrate Eucharist often as this connects believers with Jesus Christ and his physical suffering and

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his physical resurrection, and therefore with eternal salvation. 5. People who suffer are entitled to know what they suffer for, so the leadership of the Church must proclaim the orthodox faith with absolute clarity as eternal truth that is worth dying for. Heresy is named and rejected. 6. Stories of ancient and contemporary martyrs help the present Church to endure persecutions because they prepare the Church for suffering; they also encourage those who suffer that, if they die, they are not forgotten by the Church but treated as heroes. Therefore, there is a need for modern hagiography of those who suffer and die for the faith. 7. In the liturgies of the Church, both ancient and contemporary martyrs should be mentioned, for the same reasons as mentioned under 6.

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THE CROSS AND DISCIPLESHIP An Indian Perspective


By Ellen Alexander 1 1 Introduction Often on walls and bill boards in India we see the symbol aum, a symbol of Hinduism, the crescent moon and a star as a symbol of Islam, together with a cross, which has become the symbol of Christianity. These and sometimes other religious symbols are placed together to communicate that all religions are the same or at least on the same platform and that followers of all religions must live in peace with each other. In India communal riots and conflicts based on religious belief and practices are common. The people who put up these signs are ordinary citizens who feel the need to live in harmony with their neighbours, or sometimes these sentiments may be driven by the political agenda of being seen as a secular party. Little do those who put up these signs know that the cross was actually a symbol of suffering and shame, Typically, no one would want to identify or even associate with this, let alone put it on par with other religious symbols that usually evoke awe and respect. But the cross is the best known symbol of Christianity. John Stott argues, The fact that a cross became the Christian symbol, and that Christians stubbornly refused, in spite of the ridicule, to discard it in favour of something less offensive can have only one explanation. It means that the centrality of the cross originated in Jesus himself.2 John MacArthur says something similar, The name Jesus Christ evokes many images in the minds of people; some picture Him as a baby in a manger - the Christ of Christ-


1 2

The author, from India, is part of the management of Interserve. Stott, p. 25.

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mas Yet the one image of Christ that surpasses all the rest is Jesus Christ on the cross.3 The cross of Jesus is the very centre of the Christian faith, revealing the very heart of God and the Gospel. The cross was a place of shame and suffering, but also the place where the glory of God was manifest as we see in John chapters 17 and 21. In this paper I would like to show how suffering is integraland unique to the God of the Bible, and hence central to Christian discipleship. I will seek to explain what this means and how it could be viewed by those in a context (country) where there is almost an overdose of suffering - India. 2 Can we conceive of a suffering God? In the Bible suffering is real and not mayaor illusion. In fact, the reality of suffering is such that it paved the very path that God chose to tread on, not as the invincible one but as one who made himself vulnerable and open to every possible experience of suffering. The reality of suffering appears so dark that it prevents hindsight or foresight. However, there was a time when there was no pain and suffering, a perfect and beautiful beginning, and there will be a time when God will wipe away all tears (Rev. 7:17). However, sandwiched between these two perfect times in Genesis 1 and 2 and Revelation 21 and 22, starting with Genesis 3 there is the saga of suffering lightened only by the merciful intervention of a suffering God. It seems like it did not take long for Gods perfect creation to be marred by the Fall, which brought in suffering. This suffering could end only through the acute suffering on the cross.

3 http://www.biblebb.com/files/mac/sg60-29.htm (Others picture Him as a child, perhaps living in the home of a carpenter or confounding the religious leaders of Jerusalem. Many picture Him as a compassionate and powerful healer who healed the sick and raised the dead. Still others picture a bold and fiery preacher speaking the Word of God to great crowds. And there are those who see Him as the consummate man--a model of goodness, kindness, sympathy, concern, care, tenderness, forgiveness, wisdom, understanding, and trust in God.)

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A war was declared in Genesis 3:15 between the Seed of the woman and the serpent. This war that would continue even after the serpents head was crushed, ending only when the serpent is rendered completely powerless a scene we find in Revelation Ch 20, toward the very end of time. The serpent would act against the womans seed, Jesus, when he did strike his heel in his death on the cross, but the serpents head was crushed by the cross. We see a vivid picture in Rev 12: a pregnant woman gloriously adorned with authority and power about to deliver a child, and a dragon crouched and waiting to devour the child as soon as he is born. Unable to harm the child, the dragon pursues the woman. The woman is sheltered and the dragon chases after all of Gods people. The picture is of war, a great cosmic war. The woman is not Mary the mother of Jesus, but the messianic community, the ideal Israel It is out of faithful Israel that the Messiah will come.4 The Messianic community has faced the fury of the dragon through the centuries of the Old Testament period. Every time the promise of Genesis 3:15 came closer to being fulfilled in the careful preservation of a line from whence would be born great Davids greater son, Jesus, the seed of the woman faced the venom of the serpent or the dragon both names for Satan. The seed of the woman, Gods people, and prophets like Jeremiah, Daniel and Hosea all suffered the serpents persecution. The child who is the Seed a son - is born, and the resultant war is represented in its full fury in Revelation 12, with Michael and his angels on the offensive against the dragon. The Seed crushes the head of the serpent as promised, and the dragon is cast down. Luke 10:18 records Jesus saying, I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven. The war was won; Jesus bore the brunt of Satans fury and left for his disciples but a few bruises in the battles to come. Defeated, and unable to harm the Seed, Jesus, or the woman, the serpent turns around. Head crushed, it uses its tail to take a swipe at the rest of the offspring of the woman - those who obey Gods command and hold to the testimony of Jesus (Rev 12:17). The

Mounce, Robert H: The book of Revelation. Eerdmans Publishing Co. USA. 1977.

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skirmishes will only end when Satan is completely defeated and God reigns supreme over all heaven and earth. That seems to be the meta-narrative of suffering in the Bible. It seems to me that all earthly suffering and pain need to be interpreted in the light of the Fall and the resulting war that was pronounced between the Seed of the woman and the serpent, in the mother of all promises found in Gen. 3:15.5 And it must be seen from the vantage point of the one who is seated on the throne and will bring in the new Heaven and the new Earth causing all suffering to cease. Any story of suffering has meaning and perspective only when viewed within this bigger story. There is a universal, human suffering as a result of the fall and an aggravated suffering for the church as a result of the war between the serpent and the offspring of the woman. We want to unpack this narrative a little more. Gods wonderful creation is quickly blighted by pain, first seen in the pain and suffering of the heart of God as he asks the first man, Adam where are you? Can we imagine the pain of the creator in seeing his own creation fractured, fragmented, distorted and decaying? The irony is that the pain is caused by the very crown of his creation, the ones he fashioned like himself, the ones bestowed with his own breath and gifts. But the creator takes the pain on himself and without abandoning the lump of clay he reworks it again and again. Through the Old Testament we see God - sometimes the loving father, sometimes the faithful and caring husband - despite his pain, wooing his people back. He suffers the pain of rejection and loss, a pain that peaks with Jesus suffering on the cross, but overshadowing this pain we see his deep love for his people. The cross is where a holy righteous God can forgive sinful human beings, a place where mercy and justice meet. ,The cross of Jesus is like a diamond whose many facets shine brilliantly - atonement, redemption, justification. To stay within the scope of the paper we will focus on the facet of suffering. At the cross of Jesus we

Hendriksen, p. 165.

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see suffering, sin and the glory of God closely tied together. We see sin at its worst, suffering at its depth and the glory of God as never before (John 12: 23; 17:1). We also see this picture of sin, suffering and the glory of God in John 9:1-4. The cross, however, lifts suffering to a different plane, for the cross is also the place of glory. It is important to note that in the Gospel of John the cross is seen as the place of glory, not just the empty tomb as we may imagine. For here victory was won and love and forgiveness outshone the darkness of the Roman cross, and continue to show forth the power of God to suffer and conquer suffering. The Roman cross was known for its cruelty and suffering. Ramachandra points out how the cross was viewed with universal horror and disgust. It was cruel and degradingit was the most humiliating form of death. He goes on to say that the Romans did not discuss the subject and would like to pretend the practice never existed. Crucifixion was a way of obliterating not only the victim but the very memory of him. A crucified man had never existed. Thats why not a single ancient historian thought it worthwhile to discuss the subject.6 Along with the intense physical and emotional pain, suffering and shame of the cross we must not forget that Jesus also underwent the immense spiritual agony of bearing the sins of all humankind. We catch a glimpse of this agony in Gethsemane. For when Jesus set his mind as a flint toward Jerusalem, he knew that it was where he was going to die. In the garden we see him flinching as it were, Father remove this cup from me if it is possible. Calvin, commenting on this says, A prayer dictated by incredible bitterness of soul, shows that Christ had a fiercer and more arduous struggle than with ordinary death? Since God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor 5:19), God on the cross bore the wrath of a holy God, to put it in the words of Calvin, the weight of divine vengeance. (Vengeance here must not be read as revenge but a holy Gods utter abhorrence of sin). He further says, He paid a greater and more excellent price in suffering in his soul the terrible


6 Pesket and Ramachandra, pp 25-26. (the first chapter is written by Ramachandra, see p. 12).

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torments of a condemned and forsaken man.7 Stott calls this moment, Great darkness and God forsakenness.8 At the cross of Jesus we see a suffering that is unfathomable and incomprehensible, and we also find love beyond understanding as Charles Wesley put it in a hymn,
Tis mystery all: th' Immortal dies! Who can explore his strange design? In vain the firstborn seraph tries to sound the depths of love divine. 'Tis mercy all! Let earth adore; let angel minds inquire no more. 'Tis mercy all! Let earth adore; let angel minds inquire no more.

Gods love is a suffering love; Gods heart is a bleeding heart. The God of the Bible stands out among all the myths and religions of men as the God who chose to suffer to express his deep love for his creatures. However, we must be careful not to glorify suffering because God did not create suffering nor did he intend suffering for his creation; he came to conquer suffering. We need to hold in tandem that Gods original purpose for his creation was not suffering and yet it has become integral to who God is. In creating human beings in his own image, God gave them the faculties of choice and left himself vulnerable to suffering. This too is a depiction of his deep love for his people. And the call of a disciple is to follow in his masters footsteps. 3 The scandal of God Gods are strong, powerful and invincible - not vulnerable, selfsacrificing and bleeding. It is this scandal that makes the God of the Bible unique among all gods. In 1 Cor 1:23 Paul writes, But we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. Paul recognised that the Gospel of the crucified saviour


7 8

Calvin, II. xvi. 10 and 12. Stott, p. 81.

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was neither what was expected nor what would appeal to his contemporaries, for both Jews and Gentile despised the cross albeit for different reasons. For the Jews it was viewed as a curse as Paul tells us in Gal. 3:13, 'Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree. As for the Greeks, they sought after wisdom and it was considered foolishness for someone to die shamelessly and helplessly. For the Romans the cross was the most humiliating form of death. Romans werent often crucified; crucifixion was reserved for terrorists. As we saw earlier it served to annihilate the very memory of the criminal who was crucified. It was in such a milieu that Christianity was born. Ramachandra writes, What they announced as they traveled was not a new religion or a new morality, but a message which they called good news (euangelion in Greek, later to become gospel in English): namely, that among those forgotten nobodies, those degraded victims of crucifixion, there had been one who was no less than the Son of God, the Saviour of the world.9 How could a dying criminal bear any semblance of God? Gods were not meant to die helplessly; they were meant to rescue the helpless. No human being in their right mind would dare to conceive of such a story and expect to sell it. It is this preposterous nature of the message that gives the gospel its authenticity and uniqueness. Happily, the scandal of God dying does not end at the cross - it takes us to another garden and an empty tomb. Expounding on Easter, Wright says,
Mary, weeping outside the tomb, stands for all of us. She is weeping bitterly; weeping for herself; yes weeping for her Lord, yes; but also in her tears weeping for the hope of Israel, cruelly crushed by tyranny; and in that, for the hope of the world, snuffed out by the power of the world. And Mary weeps on today, in Belfast and Bosnia in the marshes of southern Iraq and the townships of southern Africa, in the mountains of Tibet and the desert wastes if the Sudan in the refugee camps and by the rivers filled with bodies; and in the hearts and homes of millions in the West who face tragedies and tyrannies day by day and are without resources to meet them; and in the hearts and lives of Christians who

Ramachandra, Faith in Conflict? p. 88.

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suffer with their Lord here and nowEaster is about the wiping away of our tears.10

Easter brings us the hope that tears will be wiped away here and for always, that a day is coming when there will be no more suffering, no more tears, no more death. There will be a new heaven on earth, a new creation and creation order. We have taken some snapshots of suffering in the Bible to show that the God of the Bible and the basis of the Gospel is suffering love and that this is unique to the Christian faith. We now want to see how this Gospel is and can be presented in India. and how it may be perceived. India is a land of many religions and the birth place of at least four religions that are practiced Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism. We also have Christianity which came to India in the first century AD, Islam and Parsees, besides various forms of animism and tribal religions. The word Hindu historically referred to anyone who lived on the east of the Indus river. However the word now only refers to those who practice the Hindu religion which would indeed be a larger part of the population of India. As it would be too wide a scope to perceive the cross and discipleship through the lenses of all these religions, I will stay with the majority religion, which is Hinduism. 3 Hinduism, Suffering and Gods Hinduism is not a creedal religion; it is a Dharma as several authors point out - among them Ramachandra11 and Dayanand Bharati.12 The word Dharma has been variously translated as morality, principles, order, duty and so on, but the closest description is perhaps a way of life. Ramachandra translates it as a cosmic harmony that pervades all things; and the idea of right ritual was taken beyond the Vedic sacrifice to denote all right action within a harmo-


Wright, pp. 46-47. Ramachandra, Faiths in Conflict, p. 65. 12 Dayanand Bharati, pp 11, 22.
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nious social order.13 He defines a Hindu as one who practices the religious and social orders, purity and rituals. Bharati concurs with Ramachandra and adds that hence it is possible to be a Hindu and be an atheist, or agnostic or polytheist or even a monist.14 In the Hindu scriptures we do not see the problem of suffering being addressed, or any implications being drawn. It is only the concept of karma (deeds merits and demerits) and Punarjanma (cycle of life and death) that offer some explanation for suffering. Bharati says, At least on the practical level this doctrine of karm and Punarjan gives a readymade answer for all the inexplicable happenings in the world suffering, happiness, talents, inequality, etc.15 The doctrine of karma seemingly has a parallel in the Bible in Gal 6:7, What you sow you reap (Gal 6:7). When taken alone this may explain the immediate or the obvious causeeffect relationship between deeds and suffering, but it must be read and interpreted in the larger context of redeeming grace, taking us back to the cross where we find the real answer. Hinduism has no cross and no God who suffers or has conquered suffering, so the karma principle provides only a short term, insufficient response. And while there is a concept of krupa (grace) this grace only helps one endure suffering. There seems to be no explanation for the cause and prevalence of suffering, or any means for finding a solution or a way of conquering pain. The principle of Karma even governs the gods and the heavens16, but while gods are governed by karma they also control the fate of humans. Upanishads17 propose that the way out of ones bad karma is through renunciation18 and the Geeta19 prescribes Niskamya-karma (or action without motive, desire-less action).


Ramachandra; Faiths in Conflict, p. 65. Bharati, p. 41. 15 Bharti, p. 216. 16 Bharti, p 211. 17 One of many Hindu scriptures. 18 Brih. Up., IV. 4.22. 19 Another Hindu Scripture.
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The role of the gods is only to help one make the right choices; even the gods cannot change past karma which one continues to drag along. Lets take a quick look at what the gods of the Hindus are like. The response seems to be that there are as many gods as there are views and there is room for them all - from the impersonal, metaphysical Brahman (name of a god) seen in monism, to the personal deities that spawn polytheism and far beyond to pantheism. It is only in this last sense that Hinduism is tolerant and inclusive, for in reality the various sects of Hinduism are quite exclusive. We have stories like that of Sita, the wife of Rama (a Hindu god) who was willing to go through the humiliation and tests of her loyalty and faithfulness to her husband. However, in the entire pantheon of gods, there is not one who chooses to identify with the suffering and predicament of humanity, or is capable or willing to be a sacrifice and die for all humanity. Such a God, a God who embraces suffering and invites people to follow in his footsteps, is alien to human nature and the myths of gods and goddess. 4 The suffering of a people In a country like India suffering is encountered at every turn. Here are some examples:
Today, an official statement from the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare revealed that 83 people have died of A (H1N1) influenza in the week ending 8 August 2010.20 India remained one of the countries most afflicted by terrorism with over 1,000 deaths attributed to terrorist attacks in 2009, primarily in Kashmir, the Northeast, and the Maoist affected 'Red Corridor', the State Department noted on Thursday in its annual mandated report on global terrorism.21 Official estimates show that close to 150,000 Indian farmers committed suicide in the nine years from 1997 to 2005. While farm suicides have


http://www.thelatestnews.in/swine-flu-83-dead-in-last-one-week/40423.html. http://ibnlive.in.com/news/homemade-terror-threatens-india-report/1283293.html.
20 21

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occurred in many States, nearly two thirds of these deaths are concentrated in five States, writes P. Sainath.22 Suicide is common in the Indian context. More than one lakh (one hundred thousand) lives are lost every year to suicide in our country. In the last two decades, the suicide rate has increased from 7.9 to 10.3 per 100,000The majority of those who commit suicide (37.8%) are below the age of 30. Divorce, dowry, pre-marital affairs, the cancellation of a wedding or the inability to get married (according to the system of arranged marriages in India), illegitimate pregnancy, extra-marital affairs and other conflicts relating to the issue of marriage are all factors that could precipitate suicide, especially among women. Additionally distressing is the frequent occurrence of suicide pacts and family suicides that are caused by social pressures and can be viewed as a protest against archaic societal norms and expectations. In a populationbased study on domestic violence, there was a significant correlation between domestic violence against women and suicidal ideation. Domestic violence was also found to be a major risk factor for suicide in a study in Bangalore.23

A life in India is seemingly cheap; all it takes to hire a hit man is Rs.1500 (about 32 USD). Every monsoon is a gamble some places get too much rain while others get absolutely none, so people die of either floods or famine. In terms of numbers we are talking about people dying by the hundreds and thousands. This suffering is real: its not maya (illusion) as some schools of Hinduism teach. When suffering is ubiquitous one could develop apathy or become numb, or seek personal elevation out of suffering, or a combination of these. One could also develop an indifferent, matter-of-fact view of suffering and death as a part of life. For Christians, the challenge is to retain a Biblical view of the value of life and death despite the realities around them. This means remembering that all human beings are created in the image of God and have significance, that life is sacred, that God knows and cares about even the maggot-ridden destitute by the roadside and


http://www.indiatogether.org/2007/nov/psa-mids1.htm http://www.indianjpsychiatry.org/article.asp?issn=00195545;year=2007;volume=49;issue=2;spage=81;epage=84;aulast=Vijaykumar
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that his or her death matters to God; knowing that Christ identifies with the suffering of even that person. 5 Sharing the Gospel in a context of suffering We have seen, even if briefly and through broad brush strokes, that the God of the Bible is a suffering God, and we live among a people who are suffering. One wonders then what it is that prevents the people of India from turning to a God who suffers with and for them. Could it be because they have not seen the suffering love of Christ in and through the church? One would have to ask the question, Does the church in India show her people that the God of the Bible is a suffering God? Would this not be the best bridge in contextualisation of the gospel? Louis Luzbetak says,
The undeniable truth is that the Gospel will not be accepted by any society unless the wares offered by the church be presented as missing in the culture, as the preferable solution actually demanded by the existing lifeway.

Will not a God who underwent such dreadful suffering in order to usher in a world with no more suffering be attractive to a suffering people? The people of India need to see this God who is able and willing to wipe away tears because he has been there and knows what it means to weep. And would it not be attractive to learn that this is no pie in the sky when one dies, but available in the here and now something that is missing in the culture and dharma or way of life of the people. Only a God who weeps knows the pain of tears. Wright puts it so well, Jesus weeps before Lazarus tomb; and then he calls him out into life. Jesus weeps again in Gethsemane; then he goes off to confront the tyrant and defeat him. First our minds need to hold together suffering and victory without compartmentalising them; to be able to see the events of Good Friday and Easter as one, the cross and the manifested glory of God in one place. This is the good news to the poor and the broken hearted. This is the uniqueness of Christ - that one need not labour in showing

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people the good news, as it is there; it is obvious and is truly out of this world. As we proclaim and live this gospel we need to hold together, not one after another but together, both the suffering of the cross and the glory revealed there; the power and victory of the cross not as mountain peaks of victory and valleys of suffering as we so often tend to do, but suffering and victory as a railway track - side by side - that one day will come to stop at the station of no suffering, or pain or grief. 6 Living the Gospel in a context of suffering What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus in the context of suffering? Vinay Samuel points out that in the culture of Jesus day the concept of discipleship was not unfamiliar, but that Jesus calling people to be his disciples was original and unique. We do not volunteer. Jesus says, Come follow me, follow my pattern and my lifestyle.24 Two aspiring disciples were following Jesus when he turned around and asked them, What do you want? They replied, Your address. Jesus said to them, Come and see. Its not enough to know Jesus address; he invites us to see how he lives and to go out and live like him. The concept of the gurukul is similar to this. Stemming from the word guru or teacher/master, the gurukuls were residential schools where the teacher and pupils lived together, and learned about all aspects of life by living together. As we invite people to come and see, our homes can become the gurukuls of today. Discipleship needs to happen in a real life context; it needs to be caught more than taught. Discipleship like salvation, is an experience, a journey. To be a disciple of Jesus is not simply to be bound by his teaching but to live with Jesus, to learn from him and, in turn, do what Jesus does in a way that reflects him. It seems that Jesus was everywhere in homes, on the streets, at parties and with grieving households, but his main destination was the cross. In this regard Bonhoeffer says that the call of Christ is a call to come and die - a


24

Vinay Samuel, p. 13.

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radical call to follow in his footsteps. I certainly cannot put it better than N T Wright: Jesus seems to think that evil will be defeated, and the kingdom will come, precisely through his own suffering and death this passage (Mark 8:31 9:1) makes it clear that following him is the only way to go. Following Jesus is, more or less, Marks definition of what being a Christian means; and Jesus is not leading us on a pleasant afternoon hike, but on a walk into danger and risk. Or did we suppose that the kingdom of God would mean merely a few minor adjustments in our ordinary lives?25 The cross is central - central to our salvation, central to finding answers to lifes fundamental questions and central to discipleship. Seen in this light we must embrace the cross even as Jesus did. However, embracing the cross does not mean courting suffering, just as having a certain abandon about life and its joys does not mean being foolish. Unfortunately there is no clear line between embracing and courting but it is important to note that there is a distinction. When Jesus calls us to take up the cross and follow him he also says his burden is light and his yoke is easy, and in and through all of this he offers us an abundant life. These are not opposites - they hold together. In a country where symbols and stories form the very fabric of peoples lives and interactions, the death of Jesus, the events around the cross and the journey to Golgotha are powerful images that will surely appeal to people if presented in the right way. As Jesus carries the cross to Golgotha, there is a small and surprising interlude recorded in the synoptic Gospels accounts of Jesus journey to Golgotha, and incidents that show us how Jesus makes room for us to participate in the suffering of the cross. Before going to the cross Jesus asked his disciples the question, Can you drink the cup I am going to drink? The disciples quickly


25 http://endsandmeans.wordpress.com/2010/08/18/discipleship-the-crosssuffering-cruciform-church/.

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and glibly respond with a resounding, We can. (Mt. 20:21) But none of them was around to wipe the sweat and blood dripping from Jesus face on that hot Friday afternoon. It was a stranger, a foreigner, a visitor who came to his aid. (Mark 15: 21). Showing/displaying unusual compassion for the condemned man they are leading to be crucified, the Roman soldiers order an innocent passer-by to help Jesus carry the cross some of the way to Calvary. Thus Simon of Cyrene (a Libyan Jew) ends up sharing in the suffering of Christ. Could not the one who carries the sins and suffering of the whole world all of the time, carry the cross another few steps? Surely it was not because Jesus could not, nor was it because of the soldiers command; it was an example of how God allows us to participate in his own suffering. Looking back we can almost be certain that Simon did not think he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but that he was given the privilege to be a participant. This would be especially true if he is the Simon mentioned in Acts 13:1, as scholars seem to suggest, who is referred to as the father of Rufus and Alexander because later generations knew his sons. Perhaps Rufus is the same one mentioned in Romans 16, whose mother was like a mother to Paul.26 In the incident on the road to Calvary that allowed Simon of Cyrene to bear the cross for Jesus, we see the crux of the Christian Gospel and discipleship. In keeping with this thought the apostle Paul in Colossians 1:21 says, Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. Speaking of what was in store for his disciples Jesus said in Matthew 20: 21, You will indeed drink from my cup To be a disciple of Jesus is to take the way of the cross and to do it lovingly - there is no alternative. Even as Jesus entered into the fullness of our suffering and made himself vulnerable he invites us to enter into the suffering of the people we serve. Jesus was no stoic, he allowed himself to feel pain and joy. We see the man of Galilee weep and say, Blessed are they who mourn. This must not


26

New Bible Dictionary, 3rd edition, IVP UK/India 2008, p. 1029 under Rufus.

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be confused with masochism: this is reality, this is love, this is vulnerability. As we live out this gospel, suffering in love with those in dark places of our world, they too will dare to believe in a God who loves and cares. The disciple of Jesus is also called to be a part of a community, Gods new community, a kingdom community. This community does not only share in the suffering of the world but wipes away the tears of people. The promise, He will wipe away our tears, is not just for the future. We experience this comfort and joy even now. Wright puts it beautifully when he says, and when in that knowledge we know ourselves to be Easter people, called to minister to a world full of Calvarys. In that knowledge we find that the hand that dries our tears passes the cloth on to us, and bids us follow him, to go and dry anothers tears.27 God instituted us to live in communities, and communities mitigate suffering. But that living in turn becomes the door for those suffering outside to step in and find hope. It is as people see and experience love within the community that they are drawn to it and recognise that it is actually a greater love, the love of God, that is in operation within the community. A healthy community means there is synergy within and service to the world outside. 7 Dare to Disciple We have seen that disciples are called to participate in and provide the balm for a suffering world. We now want to look at how the church must equip her people to put this into practice. Although the theme of the book and the seminar are aimed at addressing suffering arising from persecution of the people of God, it seems to me we cannot separate it from other suffering in our world and particularly in the country where we live and serve. The choices we make about how we want to live our lives are determined by our worldview. Our worldview is shaped by our the-


27 http://endsandmeans.wordpress.com/2010/08/18/discipleship-the-crosssuffering-cruciform-church/.

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ology, and in this context it will be our theology of suffering, but also by the realities of suffering we see around us. That fact that our Lord and Master chose the way of the cross and invites us to follow him, combined with the suffering we see around us, gives us a certain sense of abandon and freedom to live and/or die following Christ. It does not mean that one does not feel the pain of suffering or count the cost involved in following Christ, but it means that what Christ has done for us mitigates this loss. This mitigated loss is further toned down by the suffering we see around us, thereby equipping us to go and serve a suffering world with a sense of fearlessness and freedom. Records of the history of the Indian church reveal that through the centuries individuals and families have been called to suffer loss for being a disciple of Jesus loss of family, property, name and sometimes their very lives. In the recent past we have witnessed a greater and more widely spread persecution of Christians. Here are some incidents:
Alleged Muslim fanatics on 1 August destroyed a vegetable field belonging to a Christian in Natungram, Murshidabad, West Bengal.28 On June 28, a Catholic priest, Father Michael Ignatius was shot by two masked men in the parochial house of the Catholic Church of Mokama (where in India?). Speaking to the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), Father Ignatius said, Three masked men suddenly appeared and while two entered into the church one waited outside. The two started firing at me. Two bullets hit me on my left hand and one on the other hand.29 The Evangelical Fellowship of India joined with churches across India to observe Martyrs Day on August 25, the anniversary of Indias worst ever violence against the Christian community which took place in Kandhamal district of Orissa in 2008. Speaking on the occasion, Rev. Dr. Richard Howell, General Secretary of the EFI said, "Over a hundred people were brutally killed for their faith in Kandhamal. Even today their families wait for justice and for peace to return to the area


28 29

EFI News, 6th Aug. 2010. EFI News, 6th July 2010.

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EFI estimates that in the violence that followed the killing of a local Hindu right wing leader, Swami Laxmananda Saraswati, on August 23, 2007,(wasnt it 2008?) over 100 people were killed, including women, disabled persons, children, adivasis and dalits. At least three incidents of gang-rape were recorded. Around 295 churches, big and small, were destroyed. 13 schools, colleges, and offices of five NGOs were damaged. About 30,000 people had to live in relief camps for months.30

Having asked ourselves how we perceive this suffering, we want to examine what discipleship means for a church that suffers because it follows the way of the cross. As already noted, until recently the church in India has been largely free of any concerted persecution. Christians made a great impact in the fields of medicine and education. At one stage, at the time of William Carey, the church was involved with some of the social reforms but they seem to have slipped into complacency. Perhaps we need to view the recent attacks on the church as a wakeup call. We have allowed greed, corruption and sin into the church and have become indifferent to their presence. The current persecution will only increase and we must prepare the church for what is to come. The following are some suggestions I make. 7.1 The paradox of joy and suffering We need to help the church or a disciple to see that joy is not the absence of suffering. Real joy comes through suffering and knowing that Christ knows, understands and has won the victory. We hold in the same cup, joy and suffering. Christians need to see and reflect that joy and suffering are not in equal quotient, for suffering has been conquered; joy has the victory. 7.2 The visibility of the Church in public Jesus was visible and vocal in the political, economic and social milieu of his day. If as disciples of Jesus we are to follow him where he goes, then we must also be seen speaking out against evil, not just the evil done to the church but more so the evil done to those who have no voice. It may be anyone who is disadvantaged socially,


30

EFI News 25th August 2010.

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economically or politically. The church needs to be seen in action and in voice. Vinay Samuel says, It is clear that to be a disciple necessarily involves taking a stance in the political, economic and social spheres although there will be all sorts of pressures to subvert that stance. Paul exhorted Christians not to conform to the stances of surrounding society.31 By being visible in the community and speaking up, the church can take the lead in socio-political transformation. 7.3 Sacrifice a) Taking a stand in the public space must start early children and young people should take a stand in schools and colleges against cheating, bullying, favouritism etc. It also means taking a stand against corruption, especially bribery, which may mean delays in getting things accomplished. For some it may mean sacrificing the benefits due to them because of their caste32 - without a doubt, a huge sacrifice for some to make. b) For several Indians who become Christians, following Jesus has painful consequences. It can mean having to leave family and home and, for many, physical and emotional abuse. At a seminar organized by Interserve in New Delhi, in March 2010, several first generation Christians (FGCs) shared stories of tremendous pain, of being torn away from family, of feeling orphaned and of children growing up without knowing their grandparents. Often, in such cases, the church does not know how to respond. Because Hinduism is considered Dharma it is difficult to sift culture from religious practice. In the past, culture was equated with religion and caste and, despite extensive rethinking in this area, there is no clarity on where one draws the line between the two. Consequently, supporting and discipling any FGC is not easy. In
Vinay Samuel, p. 37. In India, those from certain castes are entitled to privileges like reserved college seats, jobs, promotions etc. It may also mean lower school fees and other benefits, but when such people become Christians they lose those privileges because technically Christians dont have castes.
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expounding the narrative of Naaman and Elisha, says this:

Wright

He is caught between the vision of a living, loving and healing God and the reality of his compromised and muddled life,hemmed in by lifeless and useless idols. Paradoxically when you start to get your thinking about God straightened out, you are bound to run into some muddles as the old familiar lines of your life are seen from an entirely new angle. Those who have met with the living Jesus, and are trying to follow him, are going to run into just this sort of question.33

Wright goes on to ask whether Naaman was compromising and why he wasnt more like Daniel, opening his window and praying toward Jerusalem. In answer he points out that that kind of change takes time and such people must be allowed to take their time. Wright says that Naamans cup is half-full but, on the other hand, if Daniel had shrunk back from doing what he was expected to do, his cup would have been half empty. Unfortunately, the church often measures new and young Christians dimensionally and finds their cup half-empty; whereas, if they would measure them directionally they may find their cup half-full. Like the Rabbis of Jesus day, the church has sometimes been guilty of laying on them burdens that Jesus would not have. There are sacrifices to be made but for each one the journey is different and we must allow the time and space for this pilgrimage. c) The church community is now the family of the new Christian for he has left all to follow Jesus. This new family needs to be there to support, share, protect, to take the initiative to play the role of the family when it come to occasions like celebrating festivals, marriage, birthdays d) The increasing affluence and upward mobility of the middle class must be reflected in increased giving and simple lifestyles. The attitude of the church toward our pastors and


33

Wright, pp. 65-66.

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others in Christian ministry we support needs to be challenged. Often there is a double standard that seems to suggest that the pastor and the full-time Christian worker must live a simpler life-style than others in the church. e) There may also be sacrifices with regard to marriage, dowry, jobs and career; to be obedient and faithful even in the small and everyday things of life; in opening our homes, emptying our freezers, giving our time. It may mean sitting through the night to wipe someones tears or hold someones hand. Some of these choices may prove to be costly. 7.4 Teaching on mission and suffering Teaching about mission and suffering is a neglected aspect of discipleship. Many misconceptions about missions need to be corrected if we want to see a commitment to holistic mission that includes a readiness to suffer. Mission and suffering go hand in hand. The form of suffering may vary, but pain is an integral, even inevitable part of mission. Fear often inhibits us but being able to serve despite the fear, with a sense that there is nothing to lose, releases us to serve with abandon in love and freedom. Despite, or perhaps because the Gospel of health, wealth and prosperity is sweeping across one section of the church, suggesting that abundant life and Gods blessings leave no room for suffering, we need to remind Jesus followers that the heart of God is a suffering heart, and at the centre of the gospel stands the cross. Christians are not exempt from suffering. On the contrary, we are called to suffer as we have discussed. It seems the prosperity gospel is echoing the tune of a materialistic world, for it is certainly not echoing the heart beat of the gospel of Jesus. Christ is the head of the church, the bodily manifestation of Christ in the world. As such, the church must display in its life both Good Friday and Easter suffering and victory, sorrow and joy respectively an abundant life through death.

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7.5 Obedience to the end Discipleship means being obedient to ones call to the end, and that takes commitment and may come at a great price. Writing about one who served for nearly 40 years in one of the hardest places in the world and was killed, Dutta says,
I remember him as one of the few people who had chosen to serve in one of the most dangerous places in the world and he had chosen to serve for the long haul, because he was clear that God had called him to come and serve him in this place and he would obeycheerfully and without asking questions and because God did not call him back, he served him there. Not for five years, not for ten years, not for fifteen years, but for close to 40 years till a people who did not know his worth or value killed him in harness as he served their own people34

8 Closing words Is the gospel only about suffering? Does following Jesus only mean the cross? The answer is a definite no. No, the gospel is not only about suffering, but about joy, love and victory. The Gospel is about Gods deep love for us in that he sent his son who won the victory and crushed the serpents head. The fury we see around us is the havoc caused by a fatally defeated dragon. Gods love and the victory won are far greater and more wonderful. In response to whether Jesus only offers us the cross, I am reminded of an illustration given by one of my teachers. He said that when Jesus comes by and asks us to empty our pockets (because to take up the cross means to give up all and follow him), he does not leave our pockets empty but wants to fill them. We examine what we have in there our wallet with money, credit cards and pictures of our families; maybe the keys to our house or car. We say we cant possibly throw away all those precious things. But how foolish we would be to do that, for what Jesus wants to fill our pockets with are things of far greater value. He often gives back the things we surrender and in greater measure. But even if he did not give us


34

www.facebook.com/note.php?created&&suggest&note_id=459771625394

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back the things we surrender, he is a God of love; in his love he gives us only what is good and he does not short change us. Above all we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, guiding and protecting us. The promise of abundant life is not just of something in the future but a present life of joy and peace in the midst of suffering. The author of Hebrews says that Jesus endured the cross and scorned its shame for the joy that was set before him (Heb 12:2). Is this joy only to be had in glory or is there joy in serving Jesus now? Ajith Fernando says, People who are unfulfilled after pursuing things that do not satisfy may be astonished to see Christians who are joyful after depriving themselves for the sake of the gospel.35 Peter tells us in his first epistle that we rejoice in the privilege of suffering for Christ and that, in that suffering Gods glory is revealed (4:14). That is our joy: that we are in the company of God and his glory is being manifested. So, although taking up the cross is hard, costly and painful, the cross radiates the love of God and shatters the pain by the joy and victory that it brings.


35

http://www.christianitytoday.com/globalconversation/august2010/index.html

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BIBLIOGRAPHY
Bharati, Dayanand, 2005 Calvin, John Fernando, Ajith Hendriksen, William Luzbetak, Louis J., 1988 Peskett, Howard & Ramachandra, Vinoth, 2003 Ramachandra, Vinoth, 1999 Stott, John 1986 Samuel, Vinay Kumar, 1981 Wright, N. T. 1994 Understanding Hinduism New Delhi, India: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd. Institutes of the Christian Religion Vol 2 Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing Company http://www.christianitytoday.com/globalco nversation/august2010/index.html More Than Conquerors, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Guardian Press Church and Cultures New York: Maryknoll The Message of Mission Leicester, England: Intervarsity Press Faiths in Conflict Secunderabad, India: OM The Cross of Christ Bombay, India: Gospel Literature Service The Meaning and Cost of Discipleship Bombay, India: Bombay Urban Industrial League for Development Following Jesus Great Britain: SPCK

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A LATIN AMERICAN VIEW OF SUFFERING By D. Csar 1 1 Introduction Much has already been written on the topic of risk and suffering in mission. So when I received the invitation to share the vision of Latin America on the subject, two questions came to my mind and somehow prevented me from starting this article. The first question was: What could be discussed again, with so much good material thats out there? And the second, even more intriguing question was: Is it possible to speak of a Latin American view on suffering? Is our vision different from that in other places in the world? In what ways is it different? 2 My own life story I decided I might just start by talking about myself, my life story in relation to suffering in the context of the church and mission. After all, I am a Latin American! A little of my experience and my understanding of the subject might help others to know how we think and experience suffering. I remeber the time of my youth. Many do not know, but not long ago, there was also religious persecution in our country. I think persecution is a very strong word compared to what the brothers suffer elsewhere, so it may be better to use the word hostility. In a very particular way, there was this hostility in our State, Minas Gerais. Due to the influence of the Tridentate Seminary known as the most closed and traditional Roman Catholic seminary at the time situated in a city just two hours away from my hometown, the persecution of any non-Roman idea was encouraged and applauded.


1 D. Cesar is director of Interserve in Brazil. The article was Translated by Jan Greenwood and Antonia Leonora van der Meer

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At this point we must explain that, unlike many other contexts, in Brazil there was a deep antagonism between Roman Catholics and Protestants. Catholics saw Protestants as a sect, almost diabolical. The Protestants, in turn, condemned the Catholics as idolatrous and never saw them as brothers in Christ (in fact, this thought still survives in most Protestant churches today). Anyway, back to my story: I was born and raised in this environment of religious hostility where the persecuted were us, our families, our tiny church. My father came here in 1960 as the first pastor and first leader of anything other than the Roman Catholic Church. Not even Freemasons or clubs such as the Rotary and Lions existed. We were seen by the society as true aliens, invaders, heretics. For me as a child this caused a minority complex. I always felt cornered, shy, even intimidated. Neighbours did not enter our house because it was the house of a believer. My four sisters and I did play with some neighbourhood kids but, for many years, they were not allowed to enter our house. Bolder boys shouted as they passed in front of our house: Look at the sheep pen! Others went further, and made obscene rhymes with the word believer. At school, the teacher was trying to convert me to Catholicism. Once when I was eight, on the day of the patron saint of our city, the teacher placed me to throw rose petals at the statue of the saint, honouring it and thereby participating in the coronation, - a ritual that happens here until this day. My mother had to insist that the teacher not do this me, explaining that our beliefs were different. I did not quite understand it all, and even thought it beautiful to see those pink petals flying in the air! My father and a group of Christian students boldly preached the gospel in the region. There were places where stones were thrown and people spat at them. The truck which was used as a platform was called the pig truck. The electricity was cut off in the city at least once when they needed electricity for a public event. At that time, the Roman Catholic priests had authority over local authorities. There are incredible stories, but there is not enough space to tell them all here.

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Today everything has changed, but not in all of Brazil - much less in all of Latin America. There are still corners of the Brazilian Northeast where there is this domination and strife between Protestants and Roman Catholics. In the interior of Mexico there is still strong persecution perpetrated against the Protestant minority. But not just religious persecution brings suffering to Latin America. Let us look briefly at other sources of suffering, and then discuss how our people see and react to these different types of suffering. 3 Types of suffering 3.1 Social-economic suffering Life is not easy for the average Latin American. Certainly, there are wealthy among us, but most are poor and struggling to survive. Rene Padilla says that in Brazil 40% of the population are living in misery, 40% live in poverty, 15% are middle class and 5% are rich.2 We continue to suffer from bad distribution of income. The Latin people are a fighting people who usually work many hours a week to have the minimum for survival. The lack of income, of course, generates illiteracy or poor education, health, hygiene and poor sanitation. All this leads to a cycle of poverty that produces new poverty. Our people, mostly, are accustomed to suffering economically; they adapt to living with little and find a way when something is missing. In the struggle for survival, the Brazilian works hard to try to meet their needs and still faces a number of difficulties every day. Certainly, this suffering would make the people unhappy with the conditions under which they live, and revolt against those in power would probably be inevitable. But instead of this, the Brazilians are a good-natured people, almost always cheerful and at ease with life.3
2 Padilla, C. Ren, O que misso integral? [What is Integral Mission?] Viosa: Ultimato, 2009. p. 101. 3 http://www.olhartransversal.com/2009/11/01/alegria-dos-brasileiros-nasce-dosofrimento-das-senzalas. Access: 10/08/2010.

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3.2 Political suffering Latin America knows political persecution. In the past, we have, for example, the disappearance of many people in Argentina - the result of a dictatorial government. We have the modern dictators, the exiles and political prisoners. Opponents of Fidel Castro were arrested and mistreated in jail in Cuba. The Roman Catholic priest, Vito Del Prete, General Secretary of the Pontificial Missionary Union, in his article on The Christians continue to be nailed to a cross affirms:
How many martyrs have there been in Latin America since the 60s until today! Bishops, priests, members of monastic orders, catechists, lay people dedicated to the pastoral and evangelistic work, inevitably enter in conflict with the interests of the powerful, or the powers that are founded on violence and terror. But still more surreptitious is the political will to marginalize Christianity and those who are faithful to Jesus Christ, through a systematic action of illegitimization, which intends to force it to the peripheries of public life.4

3.3 Suffering because of violence Violence has increased everywhere, and also in Latin America. There is urban violence, related to the first point (poverty). There is the political violence, as in Colombia and other Latin American countries. There is organized crime that dominates sprawling slums in Brazil. There is the violence brought by the police, who should defend the people. The police are often corrupt and have their own agreements with the bandits, abusing their authority and power. The people suffer at the hands of criminals and at the hands of police. 3.4 Suffering because of illness and death As in many parts of the world, our people suffer from various types of illness and death. The sad thing is knowing that preventable diseases cause the deaths of many.


4 Prete, Vito Del, Os cristos continuam a ser pregados na cruz. Revista Omnis Terra, Roma, n. 143, ano XV, p. 317, set.-out. 2009.

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3.5 Suffering with climate change and natural disasters We have seen tragedies affect our countries. Because of the earthquake in Haiti, already the poorest country in our region, it has now lost its entire infrastructure. The earthquake and tsunami in Chile affected thousands of lives. Fires in the Amazon forest affect the entire regions biological life. Torrential rain in Southern Brazil, and then in the Northeast, further impoverished many families. 3.6 Suffering with religious persecution To mention one more time, some Latin American cities still suffer from this type of persecution or discrimination for their faith certainly not in the manner of persecution that happens in the Arab World, but the hostility is there and it affects their lives. Especially in Cuba, churches and pastors who are not from the official church, permitted by the communist government, suffer persecution, arrests, and threats and dont even have the freedom to talk about it to the rest of the world. Recently, especially in academic circles, such as universities, there has been fierce persecution of Christians by atheists and agnostics there are even groups formally constituted with this mission. It is a kind of intellectual and religious persecution. In this way, we get closer to the reality in Europe and North America. 3.7 Suffering the separation from family Family division is especially difficult for Latin Americans whether because of divorce or life circumstances, for example, someone in the family who has to work in another location, or worse, in another country. Even if we consider the extended family (grandparents, uncles, cousins, and nephews), separation is something that brings untold suffering to most of our families. Particularly, I think this may be an obstacle for missions from Latin America. In our experience in Brazil, we have seen that family separation is one of the most difficult issues to deal with when families consider cross-cultural mission. I wish we could send entire families, as proposed by one of the leaders of missions in the Arab world! If it was logistically possible, and there was a sense of

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calling for all in the same family, no doubt it would facilitate things greatly! 4 Reactions to suffering Like every human being, the Latin American does not want to suffer, nor look for suffering. Our first reaction is to flee and to avoid any suffering. In general, Brazilians are known as and accept being a happy, joyful people. We have numerous proverbs and songs that speak of our happiness:
I live in a tropical country, blessed by God. It is beautiful by nature, but what beauty [...] This part of the song translates well the joy and pride that the Brazilian people have for their country. Soccer, samba, carnival, happy hour and Sunday lunches are part of everyday life for those who inhabit the vast territory called Brazil. But have you ever stopped to think where so much joy comes from? Is everything really so wonderful around here? [...] The reason for such joy in Brazilian society, oddly enough, comes from the time of slavery. According to the late anthropologist, Darcy Ribeiro, slaves in the slave quarters were festive, with lots of drums and capoeira to show their owners that they were happy, despite the exploitation they suffered. So we observe that the joy of the people is born as a form of resistance by groups exploited by the domination imposed by slaveholders. [...] Would it be possible to support that weight without the aid of happiness? Until when will joy serve as a crutch for social problems present in Brazil?5

Our culture has adapted itself to the modern times becoming egocentric and individualistic, mainly in the bigger cities:
Brazilian ethics developed traces in which people do not want do make any sacrifice, and not receive any discipline. [] Advantages, victory, success, prestige and power are the goals of life, at any cost. People do not feel any commitment to others. Each one can choose what he or she wants. Human being is the center of the Universe. [] Nobody wants to give up any individual rights to belong to a group where his personal freedom may be restricted.6


Idem. Adiwardana, Margaretha N., Missionrios: preparando-os para perseverar. Londrina/Curitiba: Descoberta, 1999. p. 28-29.
5 6

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Some writers claim that a Brazilian or Latino missionary will be less expensive in mission, because they are used to having little and will adapt to any situation. But the reality on the field often shows a different truth:
Marcelo Acosta is a Brazilian Mission leader of PMI, and he writes about some difficulties that Latin Americans have in facing poverty and privations in some of the Muslim communities where they serve. [] Modern cultural tendencies can have a negative influence in their ability to persevere on the mission field, and these include an independent spirit and self-sufficiency, an expectation of immediate results, an obsession with efficacy in the use of time, a desire to reach personal fulfillment and an orientation towards success. [] If missionaries emerge from this context and have grown up with these attitudes, it will be difficult for them to face a situation in which their personal freedom is restricted, when they have to make sacrifices, to be more concerned with others than with themselves, and to continue to serve, even when there seems to be very little fruit.7

In general, the Latin people do not react in an extremely negative way to suffering. Often our first reaction is to resist it and pretend it does not exist. Rarely do we see suicide which is more common in other cultures. There is a fatalistic attitude to accepting the suffering. The common people think it is God who sent suffering and accept it as they can. Another typical phrase we use about ourselves is: Brazilians do not ever give up. The Latin American is also sympathetic to the suffering of others. He quickly looks to help others who are suffering. He comes to share the little he has food, house, presence, friendship all to help others. In churches, there is much interest in intercession for people in distress: people pray for others who are going through times of sickness, unemployment, accidents, relationship problems etc. I think there is huge ignorance regarding the Arab world. In Brazil, at least, there is a movement of intercession for the Muslims,


7 Adiwardana, Margaretha N., Missionrios: preparando-os para perseverar. Londrina/Curitiba: Descoberta, 1999. p. 28-29.

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with prayer for conversions etc. But our knowledge is quite romantic, perhaps because we still have a relatively low number of Brazilians serving in the Arab world. The reality of the persecution that our brothers are suffering in this part of the world still is diametrically far from our reality. It is unimaginable for most of us. Annually, we have two days of prayer, in May and November, dedicated to the persecuted church worldwide. On these two Sundays many churches provide information and have a time of intercession for the persecuted church. But outside these two dates, few are truly committed to intercession for those who are persecuted for their faith. The Ecuadorian theologian and writer Ren Padilla, in his chapter on Mission and Suffering in his books, affirms that:
Nowadays it is difficult to accept that suffering is an essential element of mission. At least in Latin America, we, as Christians have got used to living in a context of religious tolerance where it costs us nothing, or very little, to confess our faith. But we should not forget that a few years ago we were subject to scorn and contempt for the simple fact of being evangelicals. The situation changed radically about two or three decades ago. The problem which we face today is different: it is that of a dangerous accommodation to the society which surrounds us, in order to avoid suffering; [] Each time that the church avoids suffering, it puts itself above its Lord. It loses its essence and its mission. () A church without a cross is a church without Christ, because the only Christ which the New Testament recognizes is the crucified Messiah, the power and wisdom of God. [] To accept Christ is to adopt Jesus and his prophetic practice; it is to take upon oneself the commitment with Gods kingdom of justice; it is to be ready to follow his way and to live in the fellowship of his suffering, conforming myself to him in his death (Phil 3.10). In other words, it is sharing his mission and his suffering. As he is the Servant-King, the only victory which he promises is that which is reached through the way of the cross, by the grace of God.8

It may not have been a simple coincidence that the Declaration of Foz do Iguassu was written in Brazil:

Padilla, C. Ren, Op. cit. p. 111, 113-114. (Grifos do autor.)

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Suffering, persecution and martyrdom are present realities in the lives of many Christians. We recognize that our missionary obedience involves suffering and that the church has experienced this reality. We affirm our privilege and responsibility in praying for those who are being persecuted. We are called to share their suffering, to offer whatever relief that is possible in their suffering. [] In a fallen world, which becomes ever more unjust and violent [...] we are committed to prepare ourselves and others to suffer for our missionary service and to serve the suffering church. We are committed to articulate a biblical theology of martyrdom.9

We should not forget the influence of the prosperity gospel which has spread to all corners of Brazil, and perhaps Latin America. According to this line of thought, the Christian is always victorious; when a Christian or a missionary suffers he is considered a failure and does not deserve support. It is common to visit churches in Brazil where the people will come and seek us, saying: I have a missionary calling and I am ready to become a missionary. But you work in very difficult regions. I am not called to become a martyr. As if one thing could happen without the other. As if missio Dei would be possible without martureo! Many Brazilian Christians are willing to become missionaries, as long as it is to the Affluent World. Antonia van der Meer (Brazilian missiologist, in spite of her Dutch name) comments that:
Millions of people suffer in poverty, persecution, violence, war and diseases. It is tragic to see that our Westernized culture does not prepare people to face difficulties and suffering, but instead to defend their rights and their well-being, and to serve only if the costs will not be too high and if the rewards will meet the expectations. We have the tendency to forget that the cost of reaching unreached peoples involves suffering, even though the rewards at the long term will be much greater: Gods glory, our personal enrichment and blessings for those whom we serve.10
9 Taylor, William David, Missiologia global para o sculo 21. Londrina: Descoberta, 2001. p. 18-20. 10 Van der Meer, Antonia Leonora, Missionrios feridos; como cuidar dos que servem. Viosa: Ultimato, 2009. p. 116.

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Mission schools in Brazil and Latin America will need to rethink and to improve the formation of our missionaries, including in their curricula fundamental elements of a biblical theology of martyrdom which is diametrically opposed to the very popular and nonbiblical theology of prosperity... The Chinese/Indonesian naturalized Brazilian missiologist, Margaretha Adiwardana presents and proposes a model for holistic training for candidates to the mission field, which seeks to cultivate perseverance in the face of suffering on the field. She declares that:
The cultivation of perseverance should become an essential element in the formation of candidates for the mission fields, especially for those who will face adversity. This will be reached through parameters of holistic training which include formal, informal and non formal dimensions and which will lead to the transformation of ideas and of behavior.11

In Brazil, the existence of the APMB (the Association of Mission Teachers in Brazil) has done its part to seek excellence in the formation of our workers. After their preparation comes member care which is equaly fundamental for our missionaries who are sent to countries where there is risk and suffering:
The majority of the Brazilian missionaries receive very little member care, even though a growing number of agency and church leaders are now becoming aware about this need. The churches expect their missionaries to be especially enabled by God, and that they will present great success stories. But there are depressed missionaries, because of painful experiences on the fields, because of problems in the mission team or because they are confronted with situations of war and death. These missionaries and their families suffer with very precarious medical care, insufficient support, inadequate schooling opportunities for their children and the lack of resources for their pension. Suffering is a challenging part of missionary life, and missionaries sent to difficult contexts will need a constant care and support.12


11 12

Adiwardana, Margaretha N. Op. cit. p. 22. Van der Meer, Antonia Leonora, Op. cit. p. 111-112.

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In Brazil, as an answer to these problems, the CIM (Holistic Care for Missionaries) was created,13 to promote and establish paradigms and exchanges of experience between mission agencies and churches, concerned with all aspects of missionary care. 6 Listening to those in the frontline To understand something about the experience of those who are involved in mission in contexts of suffering today, I sent four questions about this issue. I received answers from four missionaries, three mission agency leaders and from two pastors of mission sending churches. The questions were: 1. How do you understand risk and suffering in the practice of mission? 2. What biblical references form the foundation for these issues, and how do they help you to understand and to act when facing suffering in mission? 3. Are there any thoughts from a Latin American writer that help to create a theological foundation for your way to understand risk and suffering in mission? If so, which writer and which book or article? 4. How are missionaries of your agency / church oriented to face risk and suffering? We will have a look at some answers. 6.1 Risk and suffering in the practice of mission All eleven people who answered the question (ten Brazilians and one from Costa Rica) had no doubt that suffering is a part of mission. One partner from India wrote: If we look at the Arab or Hindu world, these words belong to our daily vocabulary. In spite of India
13 CIM um departamento da AMTB (Associao de Misses Transculturais Brasileiras), que rene foras missionrias e tem por objetivo promover o cuidado integral do missionrio atravs da conscientizao, treinamento e a organizao de uma rede para o cuidado em si. O grupo administra o blog: http://cuidadointegral.info/

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not being seen as a Muslim country, there are more Muslims in India than Brazilians in Brazil. We live next to a Muslim neighborhood and God has opened doors for relationships with these people. We believe that there are risks for both sides: for us who are here to witness about our life with the Father, and to them, who can be killed if they abandon the faith of Islam and follow the Lord. One partner from the Middle East wrote: Often we do not have and should not have a complete and previous understanding of the risk and suffering which we will have to face. In the Fathers infinite grace, He knows that fear paralyzes, and He will send His daily support for the daily things he will allow us to go through. A Brazilian pastor who is a missionary in the Middle East affirmed that: When we speak about these things we have two reactions: Fear and Comfort. Fear, on the one hand, because we know what kind of suffering we may face and where this suffering may lead us. On the other hand, we are comforted knowing that our suffering will not be in vain. Another partner from North Africa with many years of transcultural experience wrote, opening his heart: There has always been a risk. By Gods grace He has not allowed me to face them all at once. God know me, and knows my weaknesses. The fact that I have been for so many years outside my country does not make me brave. I have gone through several situations of real risk. If I knew about them beforehand, maybe I would have avoided them. [] With prudence, we have accepted the risks, even if, at certain moments we ask the Father for forgiveness because we have not faced more risks. This seems to be something more personal, between the Father and me. With patience, He helps me to overcome my limitations. Concerning suffering, because of the nature of my formation, my church, family profession and ministries which I have realized (humanitarian aid, in a country at war), I have known human suffering and lived very near it. But what have I suffered? Be far away from my family, country, friends and churches? It is true, I missed them. But to me, this was nothing compared to the suffering of those God called me to serve. Today I can affirm that God, in all those years, has transformed what could have been suffering to joy

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and pleasure in having my hand on the ploughshare. For the emotional health of all of us, we should not brood on the idea of suffering, and not ignore those who are going through real persecution, for even for them there is joy in doing what they have been called to do. Based on the answers that we received, we conclude that the present generation involved in mission in the context of suffering is aware and ready to suffer for Christ. But it was interesting to perceive that at least two commented that it is not necessary to know about all the risks before going through them. 6.2 Biblical references There are so many Biblical references about risk and suffering in mission, both in the Old and the New Testament, that it is impossible to comment on each one. Three women cited a text in which Jesus speaks about the cost of discipleship:
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters yes, even his own life he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.14

This text speaks very much to a Latino heart! This shows again the depth and the strength of family relationships. To break them is to suffer, and very especially so for Latin people. Three people cited the Second Epistle of Paul to Timothy and two people cited the First Epistle of Peter, emphatically. 6.3 Latin writers The following writers were cited and their writings were: Margaretha Adiwardana, Missionrios: preparando-os para perseverar. (Missionaries: preparing them to persevere.) Ren Padilla, O que misso integral? (What is integral Mission?) Antonia Leonora van der Meer, Artigo Sofrimento na vida e no ensino de Pedro - revista Capacitando para Misses Transcultu-


14

Luke 14.26-27 (NIV), and the parallel reference in Mathew 10.37-38.

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rais). (Suffering in the life and teaching of Peter - magazine Preparing for Transcultural Mission) William Taylor (nascido na Costa Rica), Valioso demais para que se perca. (Too valuable to lose.) Edison Queiroz, O vaso quebrado. (The broken vase.) Artigo Los peligros de la persecucin (revista Apuntes Pastorales). (Article The dangers of persecution - magazine Apuntes Pastorales) Only Ren Padillas book was cited twice. The others writings were cited only once. Four people said that they did not know any Latin writer who wrote about the issue of suffering in mission. 6.4 Orientation to face risk and suffering Two people said that they did not receive any training or orientation in their agencies (two different agencies) about how to face risks and suffering in the context of mission. Two sending churches affirmed that they offered a kind of orientation. The pastor of one of these churches affirmed: We have a course for those who have a calling, which has the purpose to offer a basic preparation for the candidates before they take a more definite step towards a mission field. The students are informed in this area through missiological theory and sharing with missionaries that visit us. We seek to make them aware of these things before they make the decision to become missionaries. We also seek to work with serious and experienced agencies to send the missionaries to the field. Another pastor affirmed that his church demands that their future missionaries write an essay about persecution and suffering in the Bible, which helps them in their formation. Three agency leaders affirmed that they include this subject in their curriculum or provide short term training events which prepare their missionaries. A partner in the Arab world affirmed that: It is even funny to think about that now! I think that in the wisdom which comes from on High, the company / church did not teach a lot about how to face, but what to do to prevent avoidable risks and sufferings. Maybe, because, once we are on the field, they know that our help

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and guidance comes from on High in the first place and, in the second place, they are ready to walk with us, to listen, to solve what is possible or even to take us out of a situation when that is needed. They include in their training actions or attitudes which can increase risks and sufferings. So, what they do is make us alert for different cases through instructing routines and proceedings. That is more linked to what we may face. Thinking about how, that is difficult to anticipate because it will depend on a specific situation which any of us may face at that moment (physically, emotionally, spiritually, territorially, etc.). So the right thing is to walk alongside us. The other partners affirmed that their agency understands that suffering is part of the missionary ministry. But they teach that the missionary should obey their guidance to evacuate the country in the case of imminent risk. It was interesting to observe that sometimes missionaries who have been on the field for a longer time have less information about these issues, which shows that the agencies are becoming more concerned and are training their missionaries better. 7 Conclusions In the words of Prete,15 we want to invite the Christian world to overcome their inferiority complex and guilt, which seem to afflict them, and to preach the Good news frankly and with courage and this includes Latin America. 1. We need, as Latin Americans, to learn from our brothers and sisters in the Arab world to be ready to suffer for Christ, to pay the price for our faith. How far we are from that, with our prosperity gospel and other unnecessary concerns! 2. More and more, we need to intercede for our brothers and sisters who live in the context of extreme suffering for their faith.


15

Prete, Vito Del. Op. cit. p. 317.

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3. We need to be ready to go, to serve, to weep together and to sit down side by side with our brothers and sisters who are persecuted in other contexts. 4. We need to break the family ties that prevent us from obeying the missionary call and following the Lord Jesus who taught us to love him more than we love our dear ones. 5. We can and should put ourselves in the hand of our wise God, allowing Him to use the skills He has given us, of accepting suffering, of empathy with those who are suffering, of the value of the human family and a household of faith, of knowing how to live with few resources, of having the flexibility to adapt to new circumstances of life. 6. We need to continue to invest even more in the preparation of our missionaries for this important issue of risk and suffering. 7. We need to continue to broaden our horizons more and more, concerning the issue of holistic member care for our missionaries, mainly for those that live in situations of risk and suffering. Until today, to evangelize is to sow the seed of the Kingdom of God in the Field of humanity, which will only grow if it is irrigated with the blood of the Body of Christ, which is the church. This is the most efficient evangelical paradigm of evangelistic activity and therein consists in perennial methodology. Sanguis martyrum semen christianorum.16


16

Prete, Vito Del. Op. cit. p. 320.

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WHAT IS AVAILABLE AND NEEDED IN DISCIPLESHIP MATERIALS HELPING BELIEVERS PREPARE FOR SUFFERING
By Jeremiah Brown 1 1 Introduction In a much-quoted statement Tertullian said the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. However, church history has shown that churches can also be wiped off the map by persecution. And, it is obvious that due to persecution and repression by Islamic rulers and culture the church has not been growing in the Middle East for many centuries. These years we are in the privileged position to witness a new movement of believers coming out of Islam. The more visible this group becomes, the more pressure is expected to rise. To prepare new believers for this growing risk of persecution seems to be a clever idea. In this article I will zoom in on three questions: What is the nature of the problems that need to be addressed in the context of the Middle East; what kind of training is available in this area for the Middle East, and will a training approach to prepare for suffering work? 2 Which need do we want to address To answer the questions that are posed I will make a rough separation of three targets groups for training in the region. First there are new Believers from a Muslim Background (BMB) who are not connected to a church because there is not a visible church and there are only few believers. Part of this group will interact with follow up teams from Media outlets. Other parts will be in touch with the expats. The main visible source for suffering in this group will again be the family, in some cases followed by the government.

Jeremiah Brown works with Open Doors

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Second there is a group of BMB believers that can connect to a church. Most of the time this will be a BMB church in North Africa. Mixed communities are scarce in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region due to the great security risks that a Christian community takes when it take BMBs into its community. The third group is what I would call the traditional church or the ethnic Christian community in all its diversity. According to the dominating culture of the Middle East these believers are Christian by birth. They have visible church buildings and are allowed to organize themselves, though they suffer for their faith in other ways than the first two groups. 3 The needs of BMBs without a church. The BMB that cannot connect to a church will have a discipler whom he or she can visit or will have a mail or phone relationship. Many times this will be an expat. Research by Ken Perkins revealed that contact with an expat is one of the reasons persecution arises. The involvement of a foreigner in a conversion can provoke a feeling in the family of the new believer that religion, country and family are betrayed because of this stranger. This dishonors the family and, depending on how the relations within the family already are, the reaction of the family can be harsh. Because of his presence the expat discipler can be both an agent for salvation and an agent of persecution. He or she needs to act wisely and be well informed about what is appropriate and inappropriate in the culture and what kind of actions by the BMB can trigger a rough reaction from the family. Baptism by an expat especially provokes persecution. Ken Perkins writes in a paper on this subject that baptism done by another BMB is done years later than when an expat would baptize. Also, he notes that in such cases there is not a backlash of persecution after the baptism. Those who receive follow up by phone/mail can be severely endangered by untimely delivery of messages or just wrong packing of material. Sometimes untimely disclosure of a letter or text-message by a family member can be the starting point of persecution. Online

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media can also be dangerous. Web history email and chat-history can easily be traced and disclosed. The case of Nadia in Saudi Arabia is a tragic example of how a member of the family found out that she was posting blogs on the web. She was murdered within a day. Above all, in both situations these BMBs need, as preparation on suffering, wise disciplers who can guide them through the first years of their way to Christ. They can prevent them from communicating unwisely about their faith and prevent unnecessary persecution. Recent research by Don Little shows that new believers should get involved with other seekers and believers as soon as possible. A believer who goes through longer times of being discipled on a one by one basis is very likely to end up with a return of the believer to Islam. To summarize: What is needed most of all for BMB believers without a church is connection to other believers from a Muslim background. This asks for great trust from the new believer in the person who is going to connect him with other seekers or believers. The discipler should do some teaching on that subject. Most probably he needs to tackle the barrier of fear. This is quelled more by wisdom than by a method. Training should be given to disciplers, more than to the BMB. It is the discipler who will make all his knowledge tailor-made for every unique situation. Second, giving information on security issues for both disciplers and BMB is a need, especially when it comes to online or cell phone discipleship. This training should be very practical and wise. Once a leader of a BMB community said, It is you Westerners that install fear in our heart with all these security issues. Switching faith in the Middle East will bring suffering to a certain degree. It is part of the deal. Jesus has already warned about that. Still, training in some security issues can prevent persecution kicking in too early in the life of a new believer. 4 The needs of believers who are connected to a BMB church Once a church or cell group is established and the new believer can be discipled by another BMB there are situations that may arise.

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The new believer receives his training and preparation from somebody who probably went through some ordeal and managed to stick to his faith. This situation should not be underestimated. Where such a situation exists in the region it will be only a matter of time before the government steps in to crack down on the church. As a rule of thumb, organizations that are involved with the suffering church or with human rights issues are not easily invited to come and train believers to prepare on persecution because before long things will change for the worse. In the course material from Open Doors, Standing Strong through the Storm you can find two remarkable quotes that I also heard myself. Training on persecution? I dont think that this will ever happen here, followed by a quote some years later I thought this will never happen here. Four years ago I tried to convince leaders in North Africa that they had to be trained to be prepared for persecution. They responded that they regarded this as not really necessary. In that year the government established some new laws against the church. This happened after some happy announcement in the press by a Western missionary that the church was really growing. This raised the awareness of the local press and the government felt that they had at least to do something to prevent more fundamentalist groups who were talking about them badly. Leaders should be aware of a coming backlash when their ministry grows. The training needs of these groups, once faced with persecution, are much more practical than theological. They ask for assistance in the area of advocacy, a need that is addressed by Middle East Concern, for example. And they ask for training on how to prepare for arrest, judicial procedures and provision of practical support. Since every country has its own judicial system and pitfalls, training in this area is developed together with local attorneys. Recently BMB leaders asked me if I knew about the training that is given to Chinese church leaders, since that included training on how to escape when police are raiding a house, and how to jump out of a window located at the second floor without breaking a leg or a neck. BMBs also struggle with where they can be buried and how to make a living. In my research I have not encountered training

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material that deals with such practical issues. As an outsider it appears to me that certain training also needs to be given on security issues. In BMB groups everybody seems eager to know everything from everyone. There is a lot of information about the church and fellow believers stored in cell phones and computers without adequate security measures. Some church leaders in the region provide their members with two pages of what to do when the police call you in for an interview. For these groups it seems very helpful to know what kind of questions are coming and to know what kind of (electronic) information they need to get rid of. It must be noted that in this region many of the believers are literate, which is not the case in many other areas in MENA. This raises another point for attention when it comes to discipleship training and preparation for persecution. People in the Arab world are not exactly known for reading a plethora of books. In North Africa many people are functionally illiterate. While many discipleship methods focus on reading the bible on your own, this approach seemed to be crippled from the outset for many believers. For this reason the storytelling approach of outreach and discipleship has a solid reason to exist. I havent heard that this approach has been applied to the area of preparation for persecution in the Middle East. Media such as radio and television could have a role here. I am only aware of one episode in Farsi for youth that touched on this theme. It should be noted that the maker of the program, Joseph Hovsepian, is the son of an Iranian martyr. The role of modern media for the preparation on persecution needs more attention. 5 The needs of the ethnic Christian community. A lot of missionary thinking about persecution deals with persecution that comes to BMBs. The suffering that comes to the ethnic Christian community in the Levant is easily looked over. There are several reasons for this. Most of the time the expat community is not directly in deep contact with these believers. There is an uneasy relationship, because these churches do not have a name for being

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involved in reaching out to the majority groups of the area. To my regret, I notice that for this reason Protestant believers look down on these churches. Another issue for these churches is that they dont have a good handle on the press. While hundreds of thousand Christians fled Iraq in the civil war that followed the occupation or deliverance of this country (depending on which political point of view you have) many of them were killed because they were Christian, and this story never made the headlines in Western press. When the Pope made an unfortunate quote about the founders of Islam, not many news agencies took notice of the Greek Orthodox and Catholic churches that were attacked in the West Bank. In Iraq several Christians of the Chaldean Church died in the violence. With the rapid rise of satellite TV and internet access in the Middle East (internet had a growth rate of 6000% last year), one unwise incident in the West was followed by suffering in the Christian community in the Middle East. This year an evangelical leader in America got the unfortunate idea to burn Qurans. The Assyrian and Chaldean churches in Iraq were directly threatened by Muslims that if this Quran burning took place, they would be killed. A local bishop complained, that when something happens in the West, we pay, while making a sliding movement in his neck. Unfortunately this is no exaggeration, but the truth. Because of the modern media the world has become a global village. Churches that have been surviving for centuries under Islam, bearing the always ongoing discrimination that comes out of the dhimmi status they live in, now face threats that are caused by the West. Their survival skills seem no longer valid. Many people who are born into a Christian family leave the Middle East, leaving a spiritual vacuum behind them. No matter the church background, when you speak with bishops in the region, their main concern is how to build a church while so many believers flee for safer and economically better places to live. Discipleship training or catechism in the language of the church has a totally other color from that in the BMB community. It is not very likely that these churches will ask help from the West. However, when Westerners approach them with a humble attitude this

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can open the door for giving assistance. Recently, I heard that a bishop of an Iraqi church was asked what kind of help he needed for his people who are so deeply traumatized by the dramatic events that hit his church. His answer was unexpected, I need help to organize a seminar on family life since the modern media challenge the traditional ways of building the family. In 2006 there were tensions between a Muslim village and a Christian village about a Muslim woman who had had an affair with a Christian man, out of wedlock. This escalated to the burning of 19 Christian homes. When the local press interviewed the elders of the village they just said that there were no tensions between Christians and Muslims; it was just an honor question. Needless to say, it is unthinkable that a Christian community would lash out at a Muslim community like this. Some younger man told the reporter that the assailants had been shouting, God is greater, and that this happened because they are Christians. Immediately, an elderly man told them to shut up. But the whole discussion is now available to read on the web, fortunately for them in English.2 Another issue is that neither traditional nor evangelical leaders are eager to take the risk of encouraging the BMB to mingle with Christian background believers. Such a venture will not only endanger the new believer, it will endanger the whole community. When a worker of the Bible Society was killed in Gaza even Christians said that the Baptists had to blame themselves because they reached out to the Muslim society. Speaking out of an experience of centuries, a local priest said those Baptists are crazy for crossing the line between the religions. 6 Is training an answer to the need? In the Western mind training is quite important. Knowledge is power, is a Western statement. The Middle Eastern mindset would say that knowledge is honorable; however, right relations is
2 A remarkable attempt to explain how deep the attitude of the dhimmi is ingrained in the Christian culture of the middle East is found in a report by Justus Weiner, Human Rights of Christians in Palestinian Society

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power. It is not unusual that during the first meetings within a new relationship you are told which important persons your new friend knows. This is not because he wants to brag, but because he wants you to know that if you establish relationships with him these contacts are available for you. Missionary organizations tend to be concerned about teaching. When it comes to sharing contacts, there is a good chance that they are not eager to do so. Of course, the reason is that security is at stake. This strongly contrasts with the need of new believers who are much more interested if they relate to the people who can sustain them in their troubles. In a recent development we now see that missionary organizations are revisiting their agendas on this. The need to do so has been huge; research done under the emerging churches of North Africa reveals that the drop-out level of BMBs is up to 80%. Even if this number is not applicable for the Middle East, it is still food for thought. Roland Muller, in his book, The Messenger, the Message and the Community notes that the new believer is much more concerned about leaving the safety of the ummah than a Westerner can perceive. His position in the ummah provides his means to make money and also a stake in the social insurance system. Being removed from the ummah because of the faith can mean he will not be able to make a living anymore. The spiritual knowledge based approach of the West will easily misunderstand and surmise that the believer is after the money. Also, this is what the peer group will say, How much did they pay you to become Christian? What also resonates from this misunderstanding is the modern idea of taking control over your own life. In Christian evangelical language this idea is dubbed as take responsibility for your own life. The idea of taking responsibility for your own deeds and stand in life is not dominant in the basic mindset of the Middle Easterner. When something fails it is because of an act of God. God is in many sayings of greeting and meeting. The will of God is perceived as the important agent in someones life. There is great respect for God. You should not question or challenge his authority.

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This concept is reflected in the school system and how people learn. Generally speaking the school system of the Arab world is geared towards learning by heart and not towards critical and independent thinking. The skill to think independently is required in order to take your own responsibility in relation to God and people. Breaking down this frame of mind takes years of conversation with a good discipler who will be able to help the new believer to discover that God waits for our prayers for him to rule this world, and in the end even wants us to rule with Christ. To boil it all down, while the West tends to install knowledge as an agent for change for the individual, the East tends to use knowledge as an agent of confirmation of an existing set of authoritative ideas for the group. Having said this, there is also the biblical concept that knowledge of the truth will make you free. As can be noted in many New Testament letters, the renewal of the mind is key to becoming a grown up believer. A proper knowledge and understanding of the Christian faith is necessary to grow in the faith. Discipleship training has a place in this. 7 What is available Most of the time discipleship materials are written by Westerners who have a protestant / evangelical point of view. It is important to recognize that evangelicalism was born in the Anglo-Saxon countries in the 19th century when the Christian community was struggling with the challenges raised by modern thinking. Modernism challenged the possibility of having certain knowledge about the supernatural and had the tendency to define everything in terms of nature. Historicism (the presumption that it is possible to have certain and objective knowledge of the past) and individualism were rampant in these days. The Anglo-Saxon ethical framework was (and is) permeated by the normative bipolarity of innocence against guilt. Evangelical theological concepts are in many aspects still abiding by the dominant outlook of the time of their origin - stress on individual faith, stress on the written Bible as historically and literally trustworthy as a starting point for exegesis, and an explanation of the gospel in terms of resolving guilt. This latest is

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shared with the theological tradition of the old church of the Western Roman Empire, with a disregard for the themes of life and death which are the dominating theological framework in Eastern theology. Those who work in the MENA will tell you that all training that originates in the West needs some or much adaption before it can be used in the MENA region. However, there are some materials written by Arabs, as far as I know that are also deeply influenced by Western evangelical thinking. When it comes to Arab literature I need to mention a few observations. I have met several excellent Arab teachers and disciplers. Some of them even give training in the area of preparation for persecution. None of them was able to put thinking on paper so that others could benefit from their experience. This seems typical of the Middle Eastern culture. Second, there are no such things as registration of literature and copyrights in the Middle East. Copyright means, Copy it right. A few years ago I visited a little storage facility where local believers showed me a discipleship course from the well-known Father Zacharia. A valuable resource in a region that is crying out for the right literature to sustain the BMBs was lying there without any ISBN number, and without any advertisement that it was available. At that time it was not wise to take a copy with me, and I still regret this. When it comes to books, Egypt is a special country. It is possible to have several translations of a certain book available, some legal and others illegal, but if you are not in the inner circle of the publisher you would probably not know. It would be very useful if somebody would ring the bell and start to assemble all this kind of material and make it available. Recently Don Little did research on BMB discipleship materials that are available in print. Most of it is geared toward the disipler, not toward the disciple. He also sees the highly individualistic approach of these materials because of their evangelical background, and calls for strengthening new believers, primarily not by teaching but by connecting them to a group of BMB believers.

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All the material that Little deals with in his research has the same principles. Everyone simply states that persecution will come and that the discipler should help the new believer to go through it. I have not seen discipleship material yet that explores the theme of honor and shame in relationship to persecution. But it is found in books for disciplers, i.e. Roland Muller and Nabeel Jabbour. This is also mentioned by Little. Based on the books of Roland Muller, Honor and Shame and The message, the messenger and the community, I sometimes wonder if we are too much concerned with Christ saving us from our guilt and forget that Christ is also restoring our honor (Luke 1:52). Honoring the family is a Christian value that is not raised in materials that are used in the region when it comes to teaching on persecution. This is remarkable because it is a clear observation that if the New Believer is harsh or blunt when he reveals his new stand in life and thus shames his family openly, the reaction of the community will be strong and long. However, when the convert makes his announcement with wisdom and tact, it often happens that relations with the family are sustained. Open Doors has a book of training on persecution written by Estabrooks and Cunningham, Standing strong through the storm (translated in Arabic and Surani). The course is a one size fits all approach, and is an attempt to prepare believers all over the world for persecution. The method does have its share of criticism that can be given to Evangelical discipleship material. It does not deal with honor and shame issues. However, it does focus on personal faith. It has a good part on the church as community as a prerequisite to standing strong during persecution. However it does not deal with all the trust and security issues a BMB will encounter. A strong feature that connects to the Middle East is that it tells stories from believers from all over the world who have faced persecution and suffering and how they managed to stand strong. Since storytelling is a valid way of discipling in the culture and this resource can be of help to prepare believers for persecution. However, it is a pity that it has no stories from the region. For security reasons these stories were not publishable. Having read reports on seminars in which this material is taught it is worth mentioning

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that the lessons on forgiveness make the deepest impact on believers worldwide. I think that an important reason for this is that, in general, the church is not really concerned about the further life of a believer after he has gone through persecution. The believer is free again, and life goes on. There is not much opportunity given to reflect on the hurts of the past and to deal with them. 8 Getting married as an answer to persecution? Ken Perkins interviewed hundreds of BMBs and wrote Servants in the crucible. One of his findings is that a good predictor for victory or defeat during persecution is that a believer has seen an earlier generation going through suffering and coming out victoriously. This, of course, is valid if the persecution did not end with the killing of the believer and he is still around. The good news is that the percentage of believers being killed for their faith still is low. The bad thing is that many times BMBs are extracted from their country when they come under pressure. Amazingly, one of the main reasons for this extraction is not only security but the absence of a partner to marry. Depending on the region, the gospel seems to stick with one of the two sexes. This means that BMBs do not come to Christ in equal numbers of men and women. As a result many struggle to find a spouse. Since, under Islamic law, a man born as Christian is not allowed to marry a lady born as Muslim, female new believers can only marry with BMB believers. The male BMB is allowed to marry a Christian lady, because under Islamic law their offspring will be registered as Muslim. Having said this, it is also important to realize that a Christian family will not be eager to let the daughter marry a BMB. There is a lot of distrust between those groups. This, of course, came out in some very unfortunate stories in which fake believers took Christian girls in marriage and then returned to Islam, forcing their spouses also in Islam. I wont go into detail about several stories of kidnapping by Muslim men, with the same outcome. For this reason the best that can happen is that BMB believers marry together. This is of course hard work and can only be done when

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there is a believing community around the believers to check on the partners. They must be known in these communities as sincere believers and receive good teaching on marriage. The first need that must be addressed is that BMBs have a platform to find a spouse; second, they need training in marriage. This kind of training is scarce in the region. The good news is that several organizations now work to establish marriage programs that are geared towards the needs in the region. 9 What is needed most. Every discipler in the Middle East will be aware that BMBs are under the threat of persecution. No doubt he will talk about these issues in the discipling process. A structural approach on this subject will most probably be lacking. Most disciplers will do their teaching on the run. This is not because they lack discipline for organized study, but because the people they work with are in a life changing process where what happens in their lives is more important than a course book or discipleship manual. Don Littles study on fruitful discipleship is a must-read for those who are involved in discipleship training in the region. Several times he stresses that establishing a relational reality with the community and the Holy Spirit is fundamental for a BMB to survive the pressure that is put on him. For churches that are not under severe persecution yet, it is good advice that they have their leadership trained and prepared for times to come and that they open the windows of their world to other parts of the word where persecution is rampant. What would happen if, for a moment, the emerging BMB church forgot about theirown sorrows and started praying for the suffering church in North Korea? 10 What seems to be forgotten. We only tell the successful stories of those who have gone through persecution. It is estimated that about 70 % of the Christians who went through the ordeal of persecution will suffer severe stress disorders years after the event. Persecution can be crippling and have

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long lasting emotional and spiritual effects. There are all kind of member care programs for Westerners. However, there seems to be no training material available to help local believers who have gone through the storm and come out crippled, for example, torture survivors. Leaders with counseling skills in general are rare in the region. The response to the trauma of persecution seems for many to be, Just pray and forget about it. When help arrives it will be mostly on the practical level; money and advocacy. In a recent development two organizations involved with persecuted Christians in the region hired people with counseling skills to do this kind of follow up. In the ideal situation local leaders need to be trained in debriefing skills that are needed for this kind of counseling. The openness for such an approach is growing slowly.

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RISK AND THE SENDING OFFICE


By David W right 1 1 Introduction In the countries of most mission sending agencies, the agency needs to be legally constituted and operate under the applicable laws. In some places, the board (council) is the legal owner of the agency in that context. Therefore, risks to the agencys board often revolve around their individual or collective liabilities. Such liabilities often fall into the legal realm since lawsuits, while uncommon, have the potential to financially destroy board members or the agency. Associated with events which might bring this about are risks to the reputation of the agency and its board members locally, but with some obvious potential for international affects. While other literature focuses on the more missiological aspects associated with risk and mission, this discussion is limited to liabilities which draw the most attention of the home governance structure. From the sending office perspective, five main areas of risk can be identified: 1. Risks associated with the health, safety and wellbeing of overseas workers. 2. The risk of legal action against overseas workers in their country of service. 3. Potential legal challenges against the national office by overseas workers or their families back home following a crisis or disaster. 4. Potential legal challenges from staff against the national office citing local employment laws. 5. Financial vulnerabilities in the sending office country.

The author is one of the national directors of Interserve

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2 Five areas of risk 2.1 Health, safety & wellbeing Anyone living and working anywhere faces issues of health, safety and wellbeing. But mission work often focuses on the neediest places where political, social or natural conditions can expose people to higher levels of risk. Foreigners can face particular difficulties where they do not have strong local support networks, language and culture skills, and where discrimination and other factors are experienced differently by local people. Such risks are shared with international and field leadership and to a large extent are felt through a sense of self-imposed ethical responsibility to deliver quality member care. Standards and expectations can therefore be somewhat subjective, and factors affecting the level of risk cannot always be known. Unanticipated political developments, unknown emotional health levels of a particular worker, sudden disease or simply an unexpected neighbourhood event may adversely affect workers. In unstable situations, mitigation against the potential serious affects of such events may be beyond the normal reach of all levels of leadership. This is the case especially for national offices which do not have close day-to-day working relationships with their workers, and are not as aware of their workers living and working environments. Sending offices could also find themselves having to pay significant costs for expatriation, health or other services. The possibility of kidnap also poses the potential of paying large sums of money. A poorly managed event could also challenge the reputation of the agency at home and abroad. While diminishing the affects of these particular risks may be somewhat in the hands of those in the serving contexts, national offices do have a responsibility to ensure these risks are managed appropriately. The responsibility of sending offices to properly select and prepare applicants is vital. They need to be satisfied that field leadership is exercising its responsibilities since there can be significant legal, financial, practical, or reputational implications for the national office if things fail. Annual worker review tools need to

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be used by field leadership and by national offices. Lines of communication between workers and all levels of leadership need to remain vibrant and open. Workers on home assignments need to be suitably debriefed by the sending office and, where necessary, information fed back to field leadership. International leadership should provide important information to which sending offices might not otherwise have reasonable access. National offices in turn need to keep themselves informed as much as is reasonably possible. These risks are therefore largely managed by close agency-wide cooperative efforts. 2.2 Overseas legal action Mission workers face the potential threat of fair or unfair legal action against them for which the sending office may face some liability. Scenarios of concern include fair or unfair charges related to a business (particularly a foreign-owned BAM), accommodation disputes, accidents, proselytisation charges, and anything with police or government involvement. It is also not impossible that long or short term workers may violate laws from their passport country regarding the behavior of their citizens overseas. An example of this is child protection law, which a worker or even older children of workers could breach. While these actions occur overseas, some aspects of these risks can affect sending offices. A local lawyer filing fair or unfair charges against a business enterprise or NGO owned or managed by a worker could trace the connection to the sending office and, sensing the opportunity for cash, could sue either through the local or sending office countrys legal system. The arrest of a worker, fines, or accident compensation could put the sending office under damaging financial pressure. Such events may also draw the attention of the international media, risking wider consequences for the agency. Thus, the legal structure of business enterprises or NGOs in their country of operation needs to be carefully considered. Signed instruments limiting the legal liability of sending offices may be appropriate, though these could be ineffectual over certain other

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laws. Plans to manage media attention should be pre-arranged. Child Protection Policies and Procedures should be instituted, enforced and regularly refreshed, as should other appropriate codes of behavior that could damage the reputation of financial stability of the agency. 2.3 Sending context legal action The spiritual imperatives and visionary motivation that drive people from the sending countries to send and support overseas Christian work do not immunize agencies from potential legal challenges. Indeed, friends, family or supporters of some Christian workers may not be believers and could even be antagonistic to the work. Should a disaster occur, particularly one that affects the personal safety and wellbeing of a worker, the possibility remains that legal action could be taken against the agency either by those connected with the workers affected or by a government agency, semi-government agency or an accreditation body to which the agency belongs. This risk can be managed by being reasonably informed of the factors that affect the possibility of a disastrous event occurring. Legal opinion is that courts should be more sympathetic if an agency has measures to keep itself informed of potential risks, even if the agency makes an incorrect decision which leads to an event. In other words, a decision which turns out to be wrong may be excused, but failing to keep informed of factors which might have affected the decision-making process may not. One sending office subscribes to its governments travel alerts concerning all of the countries in which its workers serve and insists that each worker do likewise for their context. Workers are also required to register with their nearest embassy something that can often be done online. Management is required to provide a report to each board meeting which outlines their governments security status and the international sending agencys security status for every overseas worker and their context, along with managements justification for maintaining workers in places of high risk. T he sending office is expected to monitor workers own responsibilities for keeping informed, and to provide exception reports to the board.

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An area of frustrating ambiguity surrounds the status of the legal relationship between overseas workers and their agency. Whether workers are considered by the sending countrys laws as employees or volunteers has a considerable impact on how legal challenges would be managed. Some offices require workers to sign a document which clarifies the relationship. For other offices, this may not be possible as other laws would override such a documents effectiveness. Furthermore, the status of the relationship may vary between government departments. For example, they may be regarded as employees for tax purposes, but as volunteers for government social security agencies. The risk and potential nature of legal action in sending countries has many unknowns. But systems to keep agency board and management reasonably informed should diminish the risk of legal action from antagonists in the sending country. 2.4 Legal challenges from staff Sending offices are usually operating under a framework of strong local employment laws. Thus the possibility of an aggrieved staff member suing the agency is real, and an occasional experience. Where staff are employed (rather than considered volunteers), they may regard themselves first and foremost as employees notwithstanding their Christian faith and motivation or that their employer is a mission agency. This mindset can be reinforced in some peoples minds where staff have a different status from overseas workers within that agencys structure. Of course, the obvious way to manage this risk is for the agency to ensure local employment laws are adhered to at a minimum, but also to exercise as much grace and generosity as the situation allows. Appropriately equalising the status within the agency of staff and overseas workers could also reduce the possibility of legal challenges from employed staff. 2.5 Financial vulnerabilities Sending offices at times find themselves very vulnerable to financial stress from external and internal forces. Managing the affects of these commonly dominate the time and energy of the agencys
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management and governance. Currency fluctuations, local or global economic conditions, changes in the local churchs understanding of global mission enterprise, changes in local laws governing agencies, and even the unexpected withdrawal of significant donors all comprise external pressures on the sending agency. Bad governance, fiscal irresponsibility, unsuitably qualified staff (either though poor selection or lack of availability), and poor management of donors can be internal factors which put financial stability at risk. Describing further the risk scenarios and their solutions is beyond the scope of this discussion. But quality governance and management are clear necessities. In particular, the board needs to have close oversight of the financial landscape and all major decisions. Often, this is through a subcommittee which reports to it, setting clear limits to management power. Management in turn must exercise all reasonable duty-of-care and provide detailed, useful reports to the board or its subcommittees. 3 Conclusion Sending offices, despite their safe operating environment face very real risks which could, in turn, have consequences for its overseas workers. Ever-present, everyday risks with lower individual impact revolve around reputation, growth, stability and relevance. Less likely, but with much greater potential for impact, are those connected with legal challenges and financial vulnerabilities. Some of these are often not well understood by overseas workers whose passion and interests rightly lie with cross-cultural mission service and whose personal sacrifice figures more strongly in their minds. But one of the main roles of the sending office is the management of these risks so that overseas workers can focus on their service with confidence, support and encouragement.

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CORPORATE IDENTITY FORMATION:

The ekklsia in Ephesians


By Salaam Corniche 1 1 Introduction I like God; I just dont like His people Spirituality is hot, religion is not. Get into the Kingdom, avoid the church. Cant we have Christ without His church? I go to church alone beside the stream The church is a human invention
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He cannot have God as His Father, who would not have the church as His mother. Why we love the church: In praise of organized religion.2 Sir, you wish to serve God and go to heaven? Remember that you cannot serve him alone. You must therefore find companions or make them; the Bible knows nothing of solitary religion. "Spiritual religion is not the enemy; it is the essence, of institutional religion.3 The above statements might suggest that the modern day church is having something of an identity crisis, if not under direct assault. This has reached into the area of missions as well, as a growing anti-ecclesiastical trend is mounting in some quarters. Paradoxically, one of the proponents of the socalled, movements to Jesus within


The author is a theologian and a career missionary in the Muslim world. Kevin DeYoung & Ted Kluck, Why We love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion (Chicago: Moody, 2009). 3 Jacob Gould Schurman, Agnosticism and Religion, (Scribner, 1896), p.167 quoted by Augustus Hopkins Strong, Systematic Theology. (Bellingham, Wa. Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004), S. 894.
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Islam4 (also called the Insider Movement=IM) which has spoken dismissively, at times, of the organized church said, Understanding church is critical.5 As various parts of the Body of Christ wrestle for identity, we would like to propose a return to a book which, as one author suggests, was written toward the end of the first century to a group of Gentile Christians in Asia Minor who have a deficient sense of what it means to belong to the church, along with a diminishing awareness of the church's origins and place in history.6 It is a book that is said to have the highest ecclesiology of all7 and of which one author subtitled his commentary, The Glory of Christ in the Life of the Church.8 We will observe as well, that a Christological ecclesiology is vital to understanding the book. We will follow the Apostle Paul as he works toward what Peter OBrien and others have called identity formation in the book of Ephesians stressing, as we go along, its corporate and theological


4 Kevin Higgins advocates this change of terminology along with another suggestion, namely biblically faithful movements to Jesus within as he feels the term IM does not connote accurately what we are seeking to describe. In Missiology and the Measurement of Engagement: Personal Reflections on Tokyo, International Journal of Frontier Missiology, 27:3 (Fall 2010), p. 132 fn 9. 5 John Ridgeway, Church: Understanding Ekklesia, Oikos and Kyriakon---Our understanding will impact the movement of the gospel www.navigators.org/us/ministries/.../July_2009_CHURCHJohnRidgeway.doc (Accessed 2009/12/5). After reviewing six examples of the word church from Romans 16 he concludes, The focus of these different expressions of the word ekklesia is always on people and no mention of meetings or programs comes up. See fn. 10 for a critique of such a stance. 6 Andrew T. Lincoln, The church and Israel in Ephesians, Catholic Biblical Quarterly 49 no 4 (O 1987), p. 618. Notably the English word for church derives from the Greek adjective (kyriakos) meaning the Lords and it is said to have entered Northern European languages via the Goths who heard it applied to church buildings known as the Lords house; thus in German we have Kirche and in Scottish Kirk . 7 Peter Thomas O'Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians. The Pillar New Testament commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), p..3. 8 Bryan Chapell, Ephesians: The Glory of Christ in the Life of the Church. (Reformed Expository Commentary series; P&R Publishing, 2009).

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nature.9 We will observe that any and all images and metaphors used to describe the ekklsia in that book depend heavily on Old Testament antecedents. The creedal phrase One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church will also form a basis for our examination. Finally, we will conclude that many present day anti-institutional and a-historical attitudes towards the church reflect more of the spirit of the age than a Biblical one. 2 The problem In 2007 Basil Grafas examined John Ridgeways view of the church in his 2006 paper entitled The Movement of the Gospel in New Testament Times With Special Reference to Insider Movements. He came to the conclusion that Ridgeway arbitrarily wrenched apart considerations of the kingdom of God and the church in order to prove that the gospel does not depend on physical structures and organization, and especially not religion.10 This was not an isolated case of taking one extreme example and taking it to the proverbial woodshed. A common theme in Insider writings is that the established church is like an old wineskin that cannot handle the new wine and should be discarded if possible---as long as it continues to support their respective ministries, however.11 As fn. #5 and 11 illustrate, a dualism is set up. Physicality,


9 OBrien, p. 50. Also see Charles Talbert (p. 12) for a list of those who have explored the area of identity formation in his Ephesians and Colossians. (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2007). The dating of his book does not include more recent studies like Minna Shkuls Reading Ephesians: Exploring Social Entrepreneurship in the Text. (London: T & T Clark, 2009) and Mikael Telbes Christ-Believers in Ephesus: A Textual Analysis of Early Christian Identity Formation in a Local Perspective. (Tu!bingen [Germany]: Mohr Siebeck, 2009). We are not unaware of a divergence of opinion as to the authorship of Ephesians, but we will side with Harold W. Hoehners argument for Pauline authorship in his Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002), pp. 20-61. 10 Basil Grafas, Evaluation of Scriptural Support for Insider Movements: Critique of John Ridgeways The Movement of the Gospel in New Testament Times With Special Reference to Insider Movements, St Francis Magazine 4:2I (March 2007) 11 A sample from private correspondence: The word church is reshaped: it no longer designates a building or pattern of organized worship but rather a living oikos (household) gathering of the people of God manifesting the Kingdom of God

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noted by Grafas as well, as embodied in structures, creeds, liturgy and clergy is pitted against the more spiritual concepts of movement, life and fellowship. This appears to be an overly-zealous pendulum-swing reaction, similar to that of the radical Anabaptists who saw that only a revolution could cure the ills of what they saw as a far too institutionalized, formalized, clericalized and ossified Church of Rome in its day.12 Revolution, not reform, was called for. A return to a New Testament ideal was called for then, and now. The Insider solution was to employ two words using original Biblical language to give an air of authenticity, it would seem, and they were used liberally at the Common Ground Consultation in Atlanta in 2009. The first was oikos and the second ekklesia. The first has been examined elsewhere and found to be employed largely with the same agenda as kingdom in Ridgeways usage.13 Presently we will examine the second. When Jay Smith interviewed IM leaders in Atlanta (2009) their statement regarding their ecclesiology [view of church] was as follows:
The focus of the new ekklesias is to congregate together for fellowship, and obey Jesus Christ, trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior.14

While it was not detailed exactly what is meant by ekklesia an earlier concluding remark by John Travis in A Humble Appeal to C5/insider Movement Muslim Ministry Advocates to Consider Ten Questions sheds some light. There he responds to a statement by Gary Corwin, the moderator and states:
This insightful closing statement of Garys is actually very much in keeping with the C5/Insider paradigm, and shows that in fact we may be closer in our perspectives and hopes than we think. The local ekklein their daily lives. New believers are no longer called Christians: they are followers of Jesus who will spark a movement and eventually plant the church of Christ. 12 Thanks to Bassam Madany for pointing out this connection. 13 Towards A Biblical Theology of Oikos, St Francis Magazine 6:1 (February 2010). 14 Jay Smith, An Assessment of the Insiders Principle Paradigms, St Francis Magazine 5:4 (August 2009), p. 42.

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sia of Muslim followers of Jesus does not belong to the believers themselves, nor to the Pope, nor to the cross-cultural workers, nor to any denominational heads; it belongs to Christ alone (Mat 16:18; Col 1:18; Eph 1:2223).15

Travis and the Common Ground statements were also reflected in the December 2009, Christianity Today Conversation which compared C4 and C5 responses to the question of Muslim followers of Jesus? The C-5 response was as follows:
C5 believers form Christ-centered fellowships in which they study the Bible, pray, and celebrate baptism and the Lord's Supper. These are ekklesia in the New Testament sense.16

If we might summarize: 1. It is possible to have an ekklesia of Muslim followers of Jesus. 2. These are ekklesia in the New Testament sense. 3. They are new. 4. They are described in orthodox language in that they obey Christ belong to Christ and are said to be Christ centered fellowships which congregate together and do things like study the Bible, pray, celebrate baptism and the Lords Supper. 5. They have corporate identities. In order to examine these statements more closely, we might be tempted to repeat the masterful work of Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck in their Why we love the church. with its examination of present-day anti-ecclesiastical biases as well as their proposed solutions. However, I propose that we first look at the concept of ekklsia not just in the New Testament sense, but in the Old Testament sen-


15 Gary Corwin, A Humble Appeal to C5/insider Movement Muslim Ministry Advocates to Consider Ten Questions With Responses from Brother Yusuf, Rick Brown, Kevin Higgins, Rebecca Lewis, and John Travis, International Journal of Frontier Missiology 24:1 (Spring 2007), p. 19. 16 Joseph Cummings ed., Muslim Followers of Jesus, in Christianity Today: The Global Conversation (December 2009) www.christianitytoday.com/globalconversation/december2009/index.html

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se as well. Then we will examine the book of Ephesians which does something that the Insider Movement has been doing, namely wrestle for identity for the members of the ekklsia. After that we will examine the images, metaphors and attributes used by Paul in his circular letter to give a fully orbed picture of what this ekklsia is and what it should be. This data will be used to examine whether or not the Insider Movement actually understands what the Bible means by ekklsia. After all, as Ridgeway already noted, understanding church is critical. 3 Ekklsia as defined in the Old and New Testaments 3.1 Old Testament A covenant keeping God hears the cries of his enslaved people, rescues them with a decisive demonstration of His sovereignty and then calls them to assemble (LXX verbal form of ekklsia) at Horeb/Sinai to stand before Him in reverence and to listen to Him as he communicates the terms of their covenant relationship (Deut 4.10). This qhl or assembly, in this case for religious purposes, was also known at times as the congregation of the Lord (Num 16:3, 20:4; Deut 23:24; Mic 2:5; I Chr 28:8) or the assembly of the people of God (Judg 20:2).17 It is as Edmund Clowney states, Their assembling is not one activity among many on the part of an already existing nation. As the people of God they are brought into existence by his redemption and given their identity in covenant assembly.18


17 In the NIV qhl is translated as Assembly, 72x (e.g., Gen. 49:6; Num. 10:7, 20:10; I Kings 8:55); Community, 13x (e.g., Gen 28:3, 48:4; Num. 15:15, 19:20); Company, 5x (e.g., Ezra 2:64; Neh. 8:17; Prov. 21:16); Horde, (Num. 22:4, Eze. 17:17), 4x Crowd, (II Chron. 30:13,7; Ezra 10:1); Mob, (Eze. 16:40; 23:46,7) and Throng, (Jer. 31:8, Eze. 23:24, 32:3) 3x each. 18 Edmund Clowney, The Biblical Doctrine of the Church (unpublished classroom syllabus, Westminster Theological Seminary), chapter 1, The Covenant People of God, p. 23 quoted by Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, Lectures Delivered at Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Mo. and Knox Theological Seminary, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Nashville: T. Nelson, 1998)

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As time went on, as Bannerman points out, this body had it center and seat of authority in Jerusalem and especially in the temple. Later, each synagogue [also a translation of qhl36x in the OT] regardless of location, as a subset of this ekklsia, exercised a role as a representative or microcosm of the larger congregation of the Lord.19 3.2 New Testament As the early church developed, it distanced itself from identifying with the synagogue (although see James 2:2) whose validity was determined by the presence of Jewish-born/proselyte men only and where Gentile-Christians, perceiving its association with the Jewish religion of law and tradition, no longer met. The preferred term used to describe their gatherings was ekklsia: this also did not have the dual connotation of assembly and building as the word synagogue did. Jesus, the Messiah, had used this term in Matthew 16:18 for a universal entity for which he claims ownership with the word my, and of which he personally oversees its development---I will build. We thus read And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church [ekklsia] and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. To a Jew, a Messiah with a messianic community was completely logical. He, who was a frequent synagogue attendee, had also made mention of the ekklsia in Matt 18:17 in the context of local church discipline and some commentators see echoes of the Qumran congregation/ community there. Connection between heavenly realities and life in the local worshipping community is touched on in v.18, and we will see this reappear in Ephesians. Classical usage of the term ekklsia can be seen in Acts 19:39, 41; here it describes a public political assembly summoned by a herald, or a regularly summoned legislative body, assembly (BDAG), although Acts 19:32 describes more of a mob than an orderly gathe-


19 D. Douglas Bannerman, The Scripture Doctrine of the Church. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1887), p. 438.

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ring.20 Additionally, as Lesslie Newbigin points out, the early church specifically used a word for a public gathering which was much more encompassing than a group with private interests. It did not meet in secret, and also was much more prone to persecution by the state.21 The potential for a clash with Rome seemed to be courted by the Christians in the use of this name with political implications. How much easier, as Newbigin, points out, would it have been to use terms like thiasos or heranos, given to state approved/approving religious societies. Rather, he notes, the early Church did not see itself as a private religious society competing with others to offer salvation to its members; it saw itself as a movement launched into the public life of the world, challenging the cultus publicus of the Empire, claiming the allegiance of all without exception. Thus, for the Christians ekklsia communicated an actual public gathering of full and free citizens of a new political entity, namely the Kingdom of God which anticipated the heavenly city (polis) on earth. They were summoned by the heralds (apostles) of the new head of state---declared by them to be the Universal Sovereign--Savior King Jesus, to give him their allegiance, and together to hear his covenant promises and celebrate His exploits and His virtues. In short, as Newbigin continues, the church is identified as the body whose head is this cosmic sovereign. The church was on a collision course with the established powers, and, for three centuries, paid the price for this stupendous claim"22 The first likely usage of ekklsia by Paul (who used the word 62x out of 114x in the NT with 111 being used for Gods people) was to greet the gathered Christians in Thessalonica with the words Paul, Silas and Timothy. To the church (ekklsia) of the Thessalo-


20 Likely this was a polemical way used by Luke to show that the old ekklesia needed to be replaced by a new one exemplified in Acts 20:6-12, as the old one only engenders disorder. 21 Lesslie Newbigin, The Sign of the Kingdom. (Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans, 1980), pp. 46-47 cited by William R. O'Brien, "The Power of Collaboration," Missiology: an International Review 33(1, 2005), p. 7. 22 Ibid.

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nians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thes 1:1 cf. 2 Thes 1:1). Note the continuity and discontinuity with the OT and the classical Greek usage. Like the qhl and like the citizens of the polis who are called-out for an assembly, so the church is the assembled ones. However, unlike a Greek assembly they are gathered in God the Father, and unlike a Jewish assembly they are gathered in the Lord Jesus Christ.23 David Peterson suggests that in defining the ekklsia we should be careful to think theologically. He prefers, for instance, to define the church as 'those whom the Lord Jesus has gathered to himself' (cf Acts 2:39) rather than to 'those who gather in his name'.24 As much as this may look like hair-splitting, it will become obvious that many modern day views of ecclesiology are much more anthropocentrically focused than theologically so. In 1 Corinthians 1114 the sense of a gathered religious assembly, like the qhl, is shown by the phrases when you assemble in church (1 Cor 11:18) and when you speak in church (1 Cor 14:35; cf. 14:4, 5, 12, 19, 28). This was a local gathering of the church of God (1 Cor 10:32) which might have referred to one group of people meeting (Acts 8:1, 11:22, 13:1) or to a number of such meeting groups (Acts 9:31, Rom 16:23) whether at someones house (Col 4:15) or at a designated building. Its divine origin is self-obvious. Thus the term ekklsia is not a metaphor, but an actual concrete gathering. As we will see in Ephesians, this gathering can also refer to the church universal, and even to the gathered assembly in heaven.25


23 Peter T. OBrien Church in Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin and Daniel G. Reid eds. Dictionary of Paul and His Letters [=DPL]. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), pp. 123-30. 24 See David Peterson, The Locus of the Church: Earth or Heaven, The Theologian, http://www.theologian.org.uk/church/locus.html (Accessed 2010/12/20) 25 In Hebrews 12.23 this community is called the congregation of the first-born who are written in heaven Other uses include: the institution of the church in a generic fashion (Matthew 18:17, 1 Corinthians 12:28, 1 Timothy 3:5,15); to the church in a collective sense, perhaps what we call the visible church (Acts 8:3, 1 Corinthians 6:4, 14:12, Philippians 3:6); and, finally, to the church in the broadest

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Summary: Volumes have been written on the etymology of the word ekklsia and various ecclesiastical traditions have their definitions. If we lean on the OT usage of a gathered people of God, maybe better yet, the people gathered by God, and consider that this is an entity bought with the blood of Christ, we might say that it is the assembly of true believers for all time; or as some of the Reformers derive from Rev. 14:17 it is those who are with the Lamb and are called and chosen and faithful- or in short, the assembly of the saved for all time.26 More importantly, we might ask: Who are there? Who has gathered them? What they are there for? 4 The church and theme/purpose of Ephesians A cursory look at just a handful of the plethora of commentators on the book of Ephesians reveals an inextricable link between Gods agenda and the ekklsia (church). As they wrestle with identifying the major theme(s) or the purpose(s) of the book, all make direct or indirect references to the church. William Hendriksen, 1967: The central theme is: The Church Glorious In Christ.27 It is a church that exists for the purpose of serving as an agent for the salvation of men to the glory of God Triune, principalities and authorities in the heavenly places joi-


sense possible, or what we often speak of as the invisible church (Ephesians 1:22, 3:21, Colossians 1:18, Hebrews 12:23). 26 Robert Reymond defines the church as [T]he church in Scripture is composed of all the redeemed in every age who are saved by grace through personal faith in the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ, the seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15) and suffering Messiah (Isa. 53:510) in his A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, pg. 805. Note that the Westminster Confession adds and their children to its definition of the church. WCF (Ch.25, #2) reads: The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the Law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion, together with their children; and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. 27 William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of Ephesians, New Testament Commentary, vol. 7, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953-2001, Original 1967), p. 62, pp. 4-5.

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ning in the praise as they behold, in a kaleidoscope of changing colors, the wisdom of God reflected in his masterpiece, the church (3:10). Francis Foulkes, 1989: [The] eternal purpose of God which he is fulfilling through his Son Jesus Christ, and working out in and through the church.28 Walter Liefeld, 1997: More than any other book of the Bible, Ephesians displays the great purpose and plan of God for the church,. the apostle paints in broad strokes the great plan of God for his church, centered on its head, Jesus Christ, and living out its calling in praise of God's glory. 29 Andrew Lincoln, 2002: [A] reminder to the Gentile Christian readers of the privileges and status they enjoy as believers in Christ and members of the Church, reinforcing for them their significance in Gods plan for history and the cosmos [as they live] in the Church and in the world in the light of these realities and not simply to become merged into the ethos of the surrounding culture.30 Ira Jolivet, 2006: ) [To] teach God's new covenant people the ethical ordinances of the divinely constructed temple, where he had promised to dwell with them forever.31 Charles Talbert, 2007: [The] cosmic, redemptive purpose of God, predestined from eternity and executed through the instrumentality of Christ, is to overcome hostility and divisions in the universe by bringing all things together under the headship of Christ.32

28 Francis Foulkes, Ephesians: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries vol. 10, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), p. 20. 29 Walter L Liefeld. Ephesians, The IVP New Testament commentary series, 10. (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1997), p.13 and back cover. 30 Andrew T. Lincoln, Ephesians, Word Biblical Commentary, V. 42, (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002), xxxvi. 31 Ira Jolivet, The ethical instructions in Ephesians as the unwritten statutes and ordinances of God's new temple in Ezekiel, Restoration Quarterly 48 no 4 (2006), p. 195. 32 Talbert, p. 47.

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Timothy Gombis, 2010: Paul is deliberately building on his notion that the existence of the church testifies to the victory of God over the evil powers.33 Frank Thielman, 2010: [The] role that, as the church, they were playing in God's plan to unite the whole universe in Christ and under his feet.34 Ronald D. Witherup, n.d: In Jesus Christ Gods eternal plan of universal salvation has come to fruition, and the Church is the body of Christ that mirrors this holy plan.35 In a few words: we observe the common theme of the importance of the church as a God-ordained vehicle in His master plan for the praise of his glory. 5 The book of Ephesians and identity formation Just as we have seen, the consensus of commentators on Ephesians is that the plan of God for this world and the life of the church is that they are inextricably linked. Yet a question still lingers. How does this all relate to everyday life? Thus the big questions, Who are we? and How do we relate to God or He to us, to each other and those around us? seem to be the questions that Paul is addressing to the recipients of his letter. This same question is on the lips of many missiologists today. In the same issue of Christianity Today cited above, which discussed Muslim followers of Jesus, one of the contributors, John Azumah, asserted The Main Question Is Identity.36 This same assertion was underlined by numerous contributors to the interactive blog of the same issue. The December 2010 issue of the St. Francis Magazine, as well,


33 Timothy G. Gombis, The Drama of Ephesians: Participating in the Triumph of God. (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2010), p. 135. 34 Frank Thielman, Ephesians. (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2010), p. 28. 35 Ronald D. Witherup, The Letter to the Ephesians: Scripture from Scratch, http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters/SFS/an0605.asp (Accessed 2010/9/11) 36 John Azumah, The Main Question is Identity: A Response to Joseph Cummings Muslim Followers of Jesus? Christianity Today, (December 2009) http://www.christianitytoday.com/globalconversation/december2009/response5. html (Accessed 2009/12/03).

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featured an article by Kathryn Kraft which demonstrated that believers in Christ in the Middle East certainly wrestle with their individual and corporate identities as they struggle to survive and maintain a distinct voice as minorities. A conclusion drawn by a number of Ephesians commentators is that there is no concrete problem that Paul is addressing, even though suggestions about charismatic visionaries, Gnostic tendencies, persecution, and disunity in the church have been examined and sometimes found useful, but mostly wanting. Thus there is a growing consensus that identity formation is the general purpose of the letter. In parallel the Pastorals like First and Second Timothy address the problem of false teachers at Ephesus and do by exposing false teaching as deviant, also holding up a standard of positive normative identity by forming a united and coherent social identity of the in-group.37 We suggest that Paul is working on corporate identity formation, as in each and every instance when he mentions the church he does so in a corporate, actually universal fashion (cf. Eph. 1:22; 3:10, 21; 5:23, 24, 25, 27, 29, 32.). His frequent use of the word one i.e. one new man (2.15), one body (2:16), one Spirit (2:18), one hope (4:4), one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all (4:5-6) would also indicate an emphasis on a corporate reality. We would define corporate identity formation as the ability to define who a group is, who it is not, and where they want to go. In a word, it is to bestow on [a group a] shared social identity meaning, purpose and value.38 It should be noted that the ekklesia is not self defined. It is defined by the One who forms it. This formation of group identity is the subject of a recent study on Ephesians by Minna Shkul. Using language that describes modern leaders [=social entrepreneurs] who forge community spirit, she describes the objective of the author as inculcating in its readers the idea that Christ-followership is their primary communal identification. This automatically places them in a position of differentia-


Telbe, pp. 154-155. Philip Francis Esler, Conflict and Identity in Romans: The Social Setting of Paul's Letter. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), p. 38.
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tion from others around them who do not identify with the communal core belief.39 She shows that the readers are thus encouraged to replicate Israels holiness and distance from the nations. Talbert as well takes a look at the overall book and suggests that between the bookends of the salutation and postscript are two large themes under the rubric of prayer and parenesis, both linked to Christian identity. His captions thus are: Prayers: using the language of worship to reinforce Christian identity (1:3-3:21) Parenesis: using the language of exhortation in an appeal to demonstrate Christian identity in life (4:1-6:20)40

Using a more backhanded approach Margaret MacDonald observes that the lofty presentations of a heavenly and universal ekklesia in Ephesians set in contrast to the negative characterizations of the Gentile world might cause one to think that Paul had great confidence in the communitys identity. Rather, she suggests that these are devices to bolster an identity that is far from certain.41 We will continue, then, with the underlying idea that the formation of a communal identity for the church (es) of Ephesus and environs is a paramount objective of the Apostle Paul. This goes beyond a mere sociological look at a group, but shows how theology drives its identity. We will observe that there are valuable lessons to be learned from how he went about this for modern day churches and missions who may be suffering an identity crisis.


Shkul, pp. 240-241; 239. Similarly expressed in Andrew T. Lincoln and A.J.M. Wedderburn, The Theology of the Later Pauline Letters. (Great Britain: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 125-26. See fn 136. 41 Margaret Y. MacDonald, The politics of identity in Ephesians, Journal for the Study of the New Testament 26 no 4 (Je 2004), p.432. In her Colossians and Ephesians. (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2008), p. x. she states, to study Ephesians from a social-scientific perspective helps one to see that this great interest in the identity of the church is fundamentally tied to the struggles of a community to survive and maintain a distinct identity in the first-century society.
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6 Identity formation and imagination A powerful tool for forming a communal identification is the use of the imagination. Instantly a book like the Apocalypse might come to mind. Richard Bauckham and others have noted that the book serves much more than to communicate information; it is an instrument of transformation. He suggests that by the use of imagery, Revelation provides a set of Christian prophetic counterimages which impress on its readers a different vision of the world The visual power of the book effects a kind of purging of the Christian imagination, refurbishing it with alternative visions of how the world is and will be.42 Just as the Ephesian audience lived in the shadow of a goddess, so did the readers of the Apocalypse, and thus Bauckham continues,in chapter 17 John's readers share his vision of a woman. At first glance, she might seem to be the goddess Roma, in all her glory, a stunning personification of the civilization of Rome, as she was worshipped in many a temple in the cities of Asia. But as John sees her, she is a Roman prostitute... As we will see, both John and Paul peel back the Roman layer of cosmetic beauty and show where true beauty lies. In the case of Ephesus, it is in the dazzling bride of Christ, a temple of divine workmanship, and not Artemis and her so called wonder of the world temple. It is likely that Paul perceives the [Ephesian] readers, as Andrew Lincoln suggests, to be lacking in strength, resolve, stability, and maturity, and to need a greater knowledge, inner renewal, corporate growth in love, and more distinctively Christian behavior in a variety of areas of their lives. It is likely that he worries that they might be losing ground to the allurements of the surrounding culture, as they forgot their former slavery to pagan ways, and that their first love to Christ might be dying (cf. 6:24; Rev 2:4). Recall that in both Eph 2:11 and perhaps 30 years later in Rev 2:4 the Ep42 Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation. (Cambridge u.a: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1993), p. 17. This same quote is employed by James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation. (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2009) which advocates that education should go beyond the cognitive only, and touch the affective domains, also via imagination.

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hesian church is commanded to remember. John Eadie remarks, This exercise of memory would deepen their humility, elevate their ideas of Divine grace, and incite them to ardent and continued thankfulness.43 Thus, Paul might have taken the adage, albeit anachronistically, lex orandi, lex credendi, as a church prays/worships, so it believes, and modified it slightly to read, as a church sees herself truly in Christ, so she will believe and act. Thus with apostolic authority, Paul tells the church that she needs to conduct herself in a way commensurate with the high dignity of her calling (4:1). Thus he employs language that will enter her heart of hearts via her imagination and help her to act in ways consistent with who she is. Consider the effect of just a few word pictures: wake up you who are [dead] asleep [in the dark] rotting in deceitful desires44 infinitely/exceeding beyond all/unimaginably more than you can ask or think [infantile] children tossed by waves and whirled about by every doctrinal gust the eyes of your hearts enlightened [with its repeated sounds: pephtismenous tous ophthalmous ts kardias] which He lavished/surplused/overflowed on us you are His workmanship/work of art quench fiery darts

The words have something relentless and yet soothing to them, not unlike the effect of the ocean-side surf. We will observe the same with the use some 20 descriptions that Paul uses for the ekklsia in the book of Ephesians.45


43 John Eadie, A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians. (Edinburgh, Clark, 1883), pp. 160-1. See also Deut 5:15;8:2;9:7;15:15; 16:12; I Cor 12:2; Gal 4:8-9. 44 Barth, (Vol 34ACh. 4-6), p. 507 He elaborates on 4:22: Every trait of the Old Mans behavior is putrid, crumbling, or inflated like rottening waste or cadavers, stinking, ripe for being disposed of and forgotten. 45 Lincoln, Ixxviii-lxxix.

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7 Images, metaphors and attributes of the ekklsia in Ephesians Festivals, statues, coins, temples, building projects, guild participation, civic architecture, the military, and Roman descriptions of its history, all had a hugely formative effect on the populace of cities like Ephesus.46 The message repeated constantly was: Roman imperial power is good and here to stay, the gods agree and so should ye. In a lot of ways, those Christians living as minorities in Muslim contexts are bombarded with the same message. Just how could a fledgling church be encouraged in face of this juggernaut of the Roman vision of the world? Paul resorts to writing a pastoral circular letter to the believers in Asia Minor, and uses some of the most powerful tools in a writers toolbox, namely those that, as we have noted, reach more than their head, but their gut as well.47 The tools are image and metaphor. It should be said that he realizes that even these have limitations, and so he resorts to, I pray that (cf. 1:18; 3:16-17) in order that the message may be driven home by Divine revelation. Secondly, he is well aware that no matter how inspired the churchs imagination might be, it will never fully comprehend just how magnifique is Gods grace (cf. 3:20). Images contribute, as Paul Minear notes, to help cure a form of blindness in which the believers fail to see themselves as they really [are, or]...as they were meant to become. His book which de-


46 The double sense of identity in Ephesus is documented by the story of a benefactor named Salutaris who donated large sums to the temple of Artemis in 104 AD and insisted on a ritual that involved imperial statues be put in place. The result was adherence both to the local community and to the structures of imperial power. in Jrg Rpke (Editor), A Companion to Roman Religion. (Malden, Mass. [u.a.]: Wiley- Blackwell, 2007), p. 448. 47 Richard Hays observes Pauls interpretation of scripture in the context of his writing to various churches, and notes: Pauls interpretation of Scripture is always a pastoral, community-forming activity. His readings are not merely flights of imaginative virtuosity; rather, they seek to shape the identity and actions of the community called by God to be bearers of grace in The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul As Interpreter of Israel's Scripture. (Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans, 2005), p. Xv.

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tails some 100 images of the church in the New Testament shows that their intent was to cause a rebirth of imagination that would enhance deeper perceptions and more authentic self-recognition.48 Metaphors similarly are figures of speech, as Soskice points out, whereby we speak about one thing in terms which are seen to be suggestive of another, and we might add, to drive a point home.49 Simply put, a certain likeness is suggested.50 As we observe these images in the letter to the Ephesians, we will note that some have a tendency to change shape in midsentence. Think of the mixed metaphors like rooted and established in love where agricultural and architectural metaphors are placed right together for effect. Thus, we are well aware of the danger of arbitrarily pulling apart phrases that Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, has put there for effect. We will observe from the various pictures at an exhibition in Ephesians that together they contribute to an almost fully orbed view of the ekklsia, other books of the Bible notwithstanding. (See Appendix 1 for a list of 40 select images of the church). Paul did say to the Ephesian elders that he did not hold back from declaring the whole counsel of God to them in his stay, and that would likely include the doctrine of the church (Acts 20:26). We will observe the corporate nature of these pictures along with their interdependence. Images, as well, are not an end in themselves, but point to a greater reality. Space does not permit, however, a full investigation of any of the images, for example the Bride as she is seen in the Gospel of John, Ephesians, I Corinthians, and the Apocalypse; nor extensive interaction with Pauls other writings. More importantly, as we follow the unfolding of these


48 Paul Sevier Minear, Images of the Church in the New Testament. The New Testament library (Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004, 1st ed. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), p. 250, quoted by John Kenneth McVay, Ecclesial metaphor in the epistle to the Ephesians from the perspective of a modern theory of metaphor, (PhD Diss: University of Sheffield, 1994), p 59. 49 McVay, p. 21 quoting Janet Martin Soskice, Metaphor and Religious Language. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1985), p.15. 50 Think of the phrase ascribed to the lover in Canticles 5:15: His legs are pillars of marble.

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images and attributes of the ekklsia in the book of Ephesians, we too should be prepared for a transformation of our imagination and even our mindset. Those in Christ One can not help but be struck by the frequency (36-39x see Hoehner), in the book of Ephesians, of the term in Christ and closely related terms such as in Him, in whom, in the Lord. Scholars have identified three major uses, namely that Christ is the sphere in which salvation is effected in the believers lives through their union or incorporation with/in Him; that He is the means or agent by which this salvation is mediated; and that those in Him are called Christians. In technical terms, the first is known as the locative [think of location] use; the second is known as the instrumental use [i.e. He is the agent or instrument by which salvation is affected].51 Paul indelibly impresses on his readers that who they are is due to their being in Christ. A helpful and practical example of how the phrase in Christ touches the corporate lives of the readers, in their context, is given by Klyne Snodgrass. His description also helps to clarify the idea of Christs sphere of influence. In his words:
In Pauls mind, just as these Christians live literally in the region near Ephesus, they also live in Christ. The terrain, climate, values and history in which people grow up and live help to define who they are. As really as this region near Ephesus defines who they are; Christ defines who believers really are. He is the sphere of influence or power field in which they live and from which they benefit and are transformed.52

A historical example from 14 AD might illustrate how this worked in the minds of the local populace. An excerpt from a thanksgiving prayer offered near Naples harbour to the Emperor Augustus for safe maritime passage from Alexandria reads, "Be51 Talbert has a very helpful table on p. 38 which details these different categories. Also Hoehner, pp. 173-74, and Michael Parsons, In Christ in Paul, Vox Evangelica 18 (1988), pp. 25-44; Mark Seifrid, In Christ, DPL, pp. 433-436. 52 Klyne Snodgrass, Ephesians, NIV Application Commentary, (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1996), p. 40.

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cause of you we are living; because of you we can travel the seas; because of you we enjoy liberty and wealth."53 Perhaps thinking of a school of goldfish in an aquarium can illustrate as well. The goldfish move, live and breathe in the sphere of the aquarium. It circumscribes their lives, just as Jesus Christ does for the saints.54 It also provides a sharp contrast as the believers were formerly in the aquarium of sin. It circumscribed their entire life. John MacArthur makes an interesting comparison with other religions and the fact that only in Christianity can one say that one is in Christ.
A Buddhist does not speak of himself as in Buddha, nor does a Muslim speak of himself as in Mohammed. A Christian Scientist is not in Mary Baker Eddy or a Mormon in Joseph Smith or Brigham Young. They may faithfully follow the teaching and example of those religious leaders, but they are not in them. Only Christians can claim to be in their Lord, because they have been made spiritually one with Him (cf. Rom 6:111).55

The reality of being in Christ and not in Adam extends beyond the individuals relationship to Christ. As Best affirms, it implies a relationship of Christians one to another in personal fellowship and all together to Christ. It is not [only] individual but social in its implication. 56 Talbert adds another angle to the discussion. Using examples from sources ranging from those of ancient Greece [Sophocles, Pindar and Philostratus] to Philo and then the early church father


53 Peter Hertz in Jrg Rpke (Editor), A Companion to Roman Religion.v Blackwell companions to the ancient world. (Malden, Mass. [u.a.]: Wiley- Blackwell, 2007), p. 310. 54 Interestingly one might make the connection of these definitions with baptism as defined by David Lloyd-Jones when he said, Baptism therefore represents and signifies our being put into the realm and into the sphere and into the influence of the Lord Jesus Christ. In his Christian Unity: An Exposition of Ephesians 4:1-16. (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 1998), p. 125. 55 John MacArthur, Philippians. (Chicago: Moody Press, 2001), p. 15. 56 Parsons, p. 27 citing Ernest Best, One Body in Christ: A Study of the Relationship of the Church to Christ in the Epistles of the Apostle Paul. (London: SPCK, 1955), pp. 20,58,186.

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Ignatius of Antioch, he shows that the term can mean in Christs hands, dependent on his power, under his protection.57 To this group of Christians who lived in a culture fearful of evil/magical powers, as Clinton Arnold58 has delineated, this provided a strong sense of group identity. Together, they belonged to Someone greater than themselves, greater even than the deified Caesars who like them would face the eventuality of the tomb. They serve Him who is far above all rule and power and domination, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come (1:21), who has all things under his feet (1:22) and whose followers are co-made alive [suzopoi], then coexalted [raised with (syngeiren)] and co-seated with [synekathisen] Him in heavenly places (2:5-6).59 To say that this is dignifying would be an understatement. The saints/holy ones
to the saints in Ephesus (1.1 cf 1:15; 3:8; 6:18)

Paul does not waste any time in the book of Ephesians to give his readers a title that describes both the position of who they are in Christ, as well as their destiny.60 As one well aware of being, as he put it literally, To me, the leaster/the most least of all the saints (3:8), he starts his letter to the saints. Some who received the letter might have gasped. Among them were those who formerly lived a life of debauchery by gratifying their cravings (2:3, 4:19), and now were saved. Paul seems to have forgotten their


Talbert, p. 39 c.f. pp. 36-37. Clinton Arnold is the author of The power of God and the powers of evil in Ephesians, (PhD Diss: University of Aberdeen, 1986) and of Ephesians, power and magic: the concept of power in Ephesians in light of its historical setting. (Cambridge:Cambridge U. Press, 1989) 59 It has been noted that in Ephesians Paul profusely employs compound words with sun, as a means to emphasize the union of believers with each other and with Christ. Cf 2:5,6 [2x],19,21,22; 3:6 [3x]; 4:3,16 [2x], also sn in 3:18; 4:31. By contrast, in 5:7, 11 this same kind of intimacy is categorically forbidden between believers and unbelievers---do not be partakers---do not participate. 60 The term saints is used some 30x by Paul to describe Jewish Christians or Christians in general. He uses it frequently to open his letters (cf. Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:1, 2; 2 Cor. 1:1; Phil. 1:1 Col. 1:4 ).
57
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background. Should they not have a title emblazoned on their foreheads, FORNICATING BACKGROUND BELIEVER?---FBB? Instead he uses a title with an ironic twist that was a term used for those who were dedicated to the gods. This was used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (LXX) to describe Gods separated and consecrated people (cf. Exodus 19:5-6), often in the context of worship, removed from worldly defilement and joined to a God who is wholly other.61 As Marcus Barth explains, the author of Ephesians bestows upon all his pagan-born hearers a privilege formerly reserved for Israel, for special (especially priestly) servants of God, or for angels."62 Those who were once darkness (5:8) --not just in darkness, but actually part and parcel of it-- now have a title that is associated with purity, light, transparence -akin to children of light (5:8). It is more than a title, it is a reality. Christ has made them holy (5:26) and they are not alone. This draws on the Old Testament tradition where holiness was more of a communal reality than a case of isolated consecration, but as Bartlet notes, it was a function of attaching to him as a member of a larger whole, to which the covenant relation in the first instance belonged.63 As a body, the children of Israel were to be holy unto the Lord (Deut. 7:6) as YHWH had said, "I am holy, therefore be ye holy" (Lev 11:45). Paul thus prays in 3:17-18 that they being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints/holy ones. Thus we see the

61 H. Balz, hagios, hagiaz etc. Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament. Vol.1, pp. 16-20; BDAG: being dedicated or consecrated to the service of God; in the cultic sense dedicated to God, holy, sacred, i.e. reserved for God and Gods service; pure, perfect, worthy of God. William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000). 62 Barth, p. 66. 63 Sang-Won Son, Corporate Elements in Pauline Anthropology: A Study of Selected Terms, Idioms, and Concepts in the Light of Paul's Usage and Background. (Roma: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 2001), p.28 quoting J.V. Bartlet, "Saints," in Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. 4 ed. J. Hastings (Edinburgh: T& T Clark, 1963), p. 352.

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foundation for the basis for the creedal statement, One Holy Catholic Church.64 This new identity has moral and ethical implications as they are called to emulate the qualities of an OT sacrifice of the highest quality, namely being holy and blameless (1:4). Collectively, too, they are called to demonstrate activities and attitudes which are proper for holy people (5:3). It should be said that this title does not convey some kind of sinless perfection but is best encapsulated by the phrase simul iustis et peccator, at the same time just and yet a sinner. Maybe John Newton, the former slave trader, said it even better: I am not what I ought to be. . . . I am not what I wish to be. . . . I am not what I hope to be. . . . Yet . . . I am not what I once was . . . and by the grace of God I am what I am. In a nutshell, to be holy is to be set apart for service. This will become more evident with the temple metaphor. The believers or faith-filled ones
believers in Christ (1:1)to us-ward who believe (1:19 KJV)

The saints above are given a further qualification. Due to Christs work they put their full confidence in him---they believe in him--and consequently are loyal to him. Talbert thus translates verse 3 as Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus [=by means of the activity of Christ] through the will of God, to the saints (to those) who are also faithful [or loyal] by means of the power of Christ [=in Christ]. It has been noted that the same term, the faithful one [pistis] is how the ideal believer is described in First and Second Timothy and how the believers are described in 1:15.65 In the likelihood, in the face of temptation, of seeing Christ as less than what He is, and thus showing disloyalty to Him, Paul states emphatically that those who are the believing ones can place


64 Holy Church is confessed in the following symbols: The Apostles Creed; Constantinopolitan Creed; Augsburg Confession, 7,8; French Confession, 27-28; Scots Confession, 16,18,25; Belgic Confession, 27,29,32; Heidelberg Catechism, 23,83-85; 39 Articles, 19,26,33; II Helvetic Confession, 17,18; Irish Articles, 68-70,73,74; Westminster Confession of Faith, 15:6; 20:3-4; 25:3-5; 26:2; 30:3-4; L.C. Q. 108,109,171,173-175; 25 Articles, 13. 65 Telbe, p. 178.

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their trust in his incomparably great power(1.19)66. One author put it this way: it is the energy of the strength of his might, which He energized in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at his own right hand in the heavenlies. It is not just confidence in raw power, but more of a heart response that Paul is working towards. Eadie elaborates:
It was not a mere extended dependence placed on Him, but it had convinced itself of His power and love, of His sympathy and merits; it not only knew the strength of His arm, it had also penetrated and felt the throbbing tenderness of His heart--it was therefore in Him [and resulted in a] quiescent and immovable confidence in the Son of God.67

The recipients of Gods gracious initiative

Paul seems to be anticipating a thought in the believers minds. Can and will God pull through for them? This is a question that the church through the ages has struggled with. It also seems to be a question in present missiological thinking, that attempts to smooth the path of new believers, perhaps to give God a little help from his friends. Superlative upon superlative are piled up by Paul to demonstrate the power of God, who is not just a steroid-filled weightlifter, but the Father of glory (1:17) who is said to be over all and though all and in all (4:4). Words like the surpassing, extraordinary extravagance of Gods grace (1:5,8; 2:7), unsurpassing greatness (1:1920), able to do superabundantly more than you ask or think (3:20a), in proportion to the operation of the strength of his might which is limitless ability described by an adverb meaning infinitely more than; (3:20b), are used, perhaps with a not so subtle allusion to inscriptions which used similar descriptions of the emperor.68


66 OBrien (p. 87) comments: using the adjectival participle of the verb perball (to go beyond, surpass, outdo; cf. Eph. 2:7; 3:19) [i.e. huperbll ] combined with the adjective mgethos (greatness, size). This combination brings out in a most emphatic way the greatness of the power towards those who believe. 67 Eadie, p. 6. 68 OBrien (p. 267) notes that in 3:20 huperekperissou - (=super-abundantly) refers to an extraordinary degree, involving a considerable excess over what would be ex-

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Just in case the readers think this is good for someone else and not for them, Paul takes them on a voyage through space and time to show as Liefeld put it, that according to his own eternal purposes God initiates, plans and accomplishes the multifaceted cosmic agenda by which he will bring blessing to the church, and through it to the entire universe.69 It goes without saying that Ephesians is second only to the Gospel of John with its frequency of references to Gods will (1:1, 5, 9, 11; 5:17; 6:6).70 Again, like hammer blows, Paul is driving home the idea of Gods gracious initiative in taking people dead in [the sphere of] sin (2:1, 5), wandering around in the futility of their minds (4:17) estranged from God (2:12) into his family. Chapter 1 wastes no time. It is He who has blessed us (v. 3), chosen us (v. 4), predestined us to be his sons and daughters (v. 5), lavished his grace upon us (vv. 6, 8), lavished redemption and forgiveness (verses 7-8), made known to us his plan and purposes for the world (vv. 910), given us an inheritance and accomplishes all things in accordance with his will (v. 11) sealed us (verse 13), and given us the Holy Spirit (verse 14). One cannot help but observe the use of us and we (v. 3; cf. vv. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 14) in what OBrien notes has been called a definite ecclesiological focus.71 Compare these statements with one made by Pliny concerning how Romans merited Gods favor. The Roman state is devoted to religionis, always earning by piety the favor of the gods. In Latin this was encapsulated by the phrase do ut des ("I give [to the gods], that you might give [to me]"). Systematically, rigorously, Paul is working on forming their identity. He wants to show them that they are not some haphazard


pected (Louw and Nida 78.34), and cites F.F. Bruce as describing it as one of Pauls coined super-superlatives. See Thielman (p. 138) for descriptions of the emperors benefactions. 69 Liefeld, p. 21. 70 Barth (p. 65) comments: Ephesians does not support the notion of an impersonal fate or cosmic blueprint that underlies historic events, or of an impersonal and unchangeable divine rule that determines all acts of human obedience.
71

OBrien, p. 99.

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assemblage of diverse Pagan Background Believers (PBBs) that needs some human coaching, but the product of a strategic plan that has all of the powers of heaven, by a Living, Personal, Wise and Powerful God working it out. The blessed ones
with every spiritual blessing (1:3)

To receive Gods favor in the form of spiritual or material gifts is how Scripture defines blessings. The resultant state of receiving such blessings could be described as shalm or well-being in an integrated way.72 To call someone blessed in the Graeco-Roman mind was to say that he had the good fortune of the gods because they honor him/speak well of him and give him benefits so that he can live the carefree life of the wealthy. To the audience who either were located at Ephesus, or had influences from this the 3rd largest city in the Empire, the connection between the aura of Artemis and blessing would not have been missed. Strabo said it simply. Artemis has her name from the fact that she makes people artimeas. (Geography 14.1.6) She makes them safe and sound or secure and healthy.73 In short, as OConner observes, Artemis is defined in terms of the benefits she confers on others. In this context, Paul affirms that the church is abundantly endowed with every spiritual blessing (1:3).74 That is to say, through the agency of, and belonging to the Spirit, and in the spiritual realm they receive a comprehensive spiritual package of every possible

72 Marshall, I. Howard, The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text. Exeter [Eng.: Paternoster Press, 1978 (The New International Greek Testament Commentary), S. 248. 73 J. Murphy-O'Connor, St. Paul's Ephesus: Texts and Archaeology. (Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical Press, 2008), p. 14. 74 Theophylact of Ohrid, the eleventh-century Byzantine archbishop [1055 1107] exegetes Ephesians 1:7 as, God poured this grace unsparingly on us. J.P. Migne, Patrologia graeca. Vol. 124, p. 1039.

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blessing from the Son of the Blessed. (Mark 14:61 cf. I Tim 6:15).75 Included in this package are election, justification and adoption. Thielman makes a helpful observation that could easily be missed. He shows that God not only blesses believers due to his gracious choice, but also inasmuch as or to the extent that He does this with lavish extravagance (vv. 7b-8a).76 God is, as Markus Barth observed, "Not a grim Lord watching over the execution of his predetermined plan, but a smiling Father... He enjoys imparting his riches to many children."77 Could it be that Paul is purposely employing images of extravagance, luxury and wealth to drive a point home to the believers in Ephesus and environs? We would suggest yes. They were well aware that their culture made a linkage between the power of a divinity and the wealth of a temple. Her power would protect funds deposited there, and soon the temple of Artemis was known as the bank of Asia.78 As the Christians observed the all-marble construction of this wonder of the world, revenues from magic arts, the flock of adherents of mystery religions, one can not help but wonder if they thought they were on the right side. It is as if Paul is asking, Do you want to see real riches? Do you want to know the real source of power? Come with me! Thus he says, I pray that according to his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may make his settled dwelling in your hearts through faith. (3:16-17, cf 1:18; 2:7; 3:8 ; Col 1:27; 2:23) These are the inexhaustible resources of heaven itself, that are at the churchs disposal. Not only that, by using the preposition translated according to, Paul is praying that God will pour out, in correspondence to, or commensurate with, his riches in glory all that the church
75 Leslie James Crawford, Ephesians 1:3-4 and the Nature of Election, The Master's Seminary Journal 11/1 (Spring 2000), p. 88. 76 Thielman, p. 47. 77 Hoehner, p. 199, quoting Barth, p. 81. Also note the use of the word wealth/riches (Gk= plotos) in 1:7, 18; 2:7; 3:8; 3:16. 78 According to Aelius Aristides (Orations 23.24), Julius Caesar in the 1st century BC (Civil Wars 3.33, 105; p 32) and in the early second century AD by Dio Chrysostom (Orations 31.54-55; p. 64) in Murphy-OConnor, p. 23.

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needs.79 This makes the bank look bankrupt and the silver shrines of Demetrius like scrap metal. The elected and adopted ones In Christ, God, who by virtue of his holiness should show wrath (2:3) to children of disobedience (2:2) persistent in their disbelief and obstinacy, extends mercy. But God (2:4). Now these dearly loved children, formerly orphaned due to following a malicious and false father of lies, have all the privileges of adoption by one whom they can call our Father (1:1). They have free and unencumbered access to Him (2:18) even though He is the God and Father of us all (4:6) and the the glorious Father (1:17). God the Father effectively displaces Caesar who was said to be father and his state the household.80 A new, approachable, completely dependable, completely powerful, Head of state and head of the family has taken center stage. A completely new kind of patria potestas or ultimate authority of a father is at work. No longer can only Israel say, they are Gods firstborn son (Exod. 4:22; Isa. 1:2). The privileged adoption as children, formerly the monopoly of Israel has gone global (Rom. 9:4). Now, by rebirth in Christ the Son, all believers can experience the freedom from bondage and hear God saying, I will be his father, and he will be my son (2 Sam 7:14) and, When Israel was a child I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son (Hos. 11:1). The blessings reserved to Abraham and his children due to Gods covenant with them, due to his sovereign choice, are now theirs through faith. This is the stuff of dreams. Pimping paupers are made into princes, parading prostitutes are made into princesses, and children living in the garbage dump are brought into the palace. It is as John Arrowsmith [1602-1659] said, In whatever dunghill God's jewels


79 OBrien, p. 107. See also: According to the riches of His glory (3:16); According to the power that works in us (3:20); According to the energy of the might of His power, which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead. (1:1920); According to the riches of his grace (1:7); According to the gift of Gods grace (2:7); But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christs gift/largesse (4:7) 80 Philip H. Towner, Household and Household Codes in DPL, S. 418

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be hid, election will both find them out there and fetch them out from hence.81 The belonging which each human craves is made complete in this Divine family. To be part of this household (Gk oikos) meant a sense of identity in being part of something larger than oneself, and the security of the refuge and protection of the householder, the paterfamilias. Thus we note that in 1 Timothy 3:15 Paul refers to the church at Ephesus as the household of God, meaning the household that has its source in God, and has its focus towards God. Belonging to a household has obligations, and these are fleshed out in a transformed Roman household code in 5:216:9 for the behavior of Christian husbands and wives, parents and children and slaves and masters, either in their own households or in the larger family of God. Implied in adoption are the rights of inheritance in the new family, and a forsaking of old family ties. According to Roman law, the new adoptees old family has died, along with its debts and obligations. Their common adoption, due to Gods sovereign, deliberate, eternal choice, of course makes a grouping of what would otherwise be completely disconnected people, a family with a Father, or the familia dei. They derive this name from Him (3:15) and now they are brothers and sisters (cf. 6:23; 1:5; 5:1; 2:19). This is also a family with a purpose, in that they are destined to glory, and thus can have supreme hope. 82 The ones in the Beloved
as beloved children (5.1) Christ loved the church (5:25)

The Ephesian church is described as being in the Beloved. We could read this as being incorporated into the One who is Beloved, like the idea of in Christ, and also being a part of those who are


81 John Arrowsmith, Armilla catechetica: a chain of principles: or, An orderly conostenation of theological aphorisms and exercitations, wherein the chief heads of Christian religion are asserted and improved. (Edinburgh: Turnbull, 1822), p. 245. 82 Elsewhere in Paul, some of the foci of hope include: salvation (1 Thess. 5:8), righteousness (Gal. 5:5), resurrection in an incorruptible body (1 Cor. 15:5255), eternal life (Tit. 1:2; 3:7), and Gods glory (Rom. 5:2).

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beloved. The term in love occurs 6x in the book (1:4;3:17: 4:2,15,16; 5:2), the noun 10x (1:4,15;2:4;3:17,19;4:2,15,16;5:2;6:23) and the verb 10x (1:6;2:4;5:2,25 [2x]; 28 [3x],33;6:24). This frequency has caused John Paul Heil to suggest that love is the theme central to the overall purpose of the letter.83 Israel was said to be Gods beloved people, due to his sovereign and gracious choice (Deut. 33:12; Isa. 5:1, 7; Jer. 11:15; 12:7).84 In a similar way, this title is given to NT believers (1 Thess. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13; Rom. 9:25; Col. 3:12) due to Gods decision to give his Chosen One, the Christ, the Son of his love (Col 1:13), a people of His own. These people share in Christs belovedness (Mark 1:11; 9:7 and parallels; cf. 12:6; Luke 20:13) and so are looked upon, like Him, with favorable regard, due to his great love with which he loved us (2:4). As the Ephesian mind needed to be re-formatted to understand this love at a heart level, Paul prays that the eyes of their hearts might be opened (1:18). He wants their identity formation to go beyond a simple accumulation of ideas, but to touch and transform the very core of their being. This would result in loving Christ with an undying/sincere/unfading/undefiled love (6:24)or as Westcott suggests, free from every element liable to corruption and that they might live a life - denoted by the term walk - of love as dearly loved - one might say darling - children (5:1-2), who exhibit love for all the saints (1:15).85 The Redeemed and forgiven ones


83 John Paul Heil, Ephesians: Empowerment to Walk in Love for the Unity of All in Christ. (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2007), p. 2. 84 Also Deut 32: 15; 33:5, 26; cf II Chron 20:7; Dan 3:35. See pp. 229-233 for a detailed analysis of the word beloved in Joseph Armitage Robinson, St. Paul's epistle to the Ephesians: a rev. text and transl. with exposition and notes. (London: Macmillan, 1904). 85 Westcott, p. 100. He quotes approvingly Primasius of Hadrumetum who describes this love as one in whose heart the delight in the love of Christ is violated by no adulterous love of this present world. Hoehner (p. 645) shows that in Homers Odyssey, a beloved child is frequently an only child on which the parents set a particular affection.

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And you were dead in your trespasses and sins (2:1). In Him we have redemption through the instrumentality of his blood. (1:7)

Not just from some faux pas are the saints delivered, but from, as John Eadie states, the actual and numerous results and manifestations of our sinful condition" and all forms and developments of a sinful nature.86 Ephesians 1:7 shows that church has been bought with a bride price, namely that of the blood of its heavenly bridegroom, Jesus Christ. She is thus set apart to Himself as His own redeemed and peculiar possession.87 Thus a body of former slaves in sin/trespasses (2:1) and in bondage to the oppressive powers (cf the Exodus from Egypt) and way of life of this world has a complete reversal of status.88 The formerly dead are alive, the alienated brought close, the enslaved free, and the old are made new. The Sealed ones
...the Holy Spirit by whom you were sealed (4:30)

The readers heard the word of truth through the agency of Christ, and this caused them to believe (1:13). At the same time the Holy Spirit who was both promised (Acts 2:33) and is the guarantor of promises to come (c.f. 4:30) certifies these believers. He provides certification of ownership (e.g. Rev 7:3-8), protection (Matt 27:66; Rev 20:3), and authenticity (John 3:33;6:27), all of which are terms that Talbert noted were part and parcel of being in Christ. The believers are marked, in a way similar to cattle branding, as Gods possession (cf Ezek 9:46). He is committed to protect what he owns and make sure it gets to its final destination (c.f. v.14, 4:30). This seal of protection (Rev. 7:3-8) will protect them as well, from the


86 Eadie, pp. 41-2; 118. Cf. Mt 6:15b; Mk 11:25, 26; Ro 4:25; 5:16; 2 Cor 5:19; Eph 1:7; 2:5; Col 2:13ab; Js 5:16. Barth, however, thinks that it is more correct to use the softened word lapses in place of trespasses. Vo1 1, p. 83. 87 Eadie, p. 416. 88 Gombis unpacks the fact that they had walked according to the age of this world by stating that their complete way of life had been determined by and oriented according to the powerful influences of a spatio-temporal complex wholly hostile to god in "Ephesians 2 as a Narrative of Divine Warfare," Journal for the Study of the New Testament 26 no 4 (Je 2004), p 410.

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holy hatred which will be poured out at the last day on the children of/destined for wrath (2:3). The seal is more than just something external, however. The Holy Spirit living inside the believer is the seal.89 The Puritan John Owen said it this way, Gods sealing of believers is His gracious communication of the Holy Ghost unto them, so as to enable them unto all the duties of their holy calling. The effects of this sealing are gracious operations of the Spirit in and upon believers; but the sealing itself is the communication of Gods Spirit to them. Additionally, Rodney Thomas points out, the readers may have understood the Holy Spirits mark/seal as an amulet. In a world dominated by magical powers (cf Acts 19), the believers might have been tempted to dabble into magic to give themselves protection or better their fortunes and to do so with commonly available amulets. Thomas suggests that Paul anticipates this temptation and so uses a term they could relate to by describing the Holy Spirit as the the talisman above all other talismans and a source of ultimate protection.90 The inheritors with a down payment and who themselves are an inheritance

The Ephesian church is joined to Christ who is described in the book of Hebrews as the heir of all things (Heb 1:2), and so we read in 1:11 in him we have obtained an inheritance It is in this light that Paul addresses the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:32 regarding their inheritance which is to be received among all those who are sanctified, as a gift from God. Their position in the heir guarantees the inheritance. The Holy Spirit is given to the church as a deposit guaranteeing (NIV) that it will receive its future inheritance. BDAG states


89 Rudolf Schnackenburg states: The metaphor of a seal does not imply that the Holy Spirit has stamped us with a sealbut that he himself is this seal, as sign characterizing our Christian existence in his Ephesians: A Commentary. (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1991), p. 65. 90 Rodney Thomas, The seal of the Spirit and the religious climate of Ephesus, Restoration Quarterly 43 no 3 (2001), p. 166.

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that this word used in commercial usage denotes a payment of part of a purchase price in advance, first installment, deposit, down payment, pledge91 and is a payment which obligates the contracting party to make further payments (cf Gen 38:17-18,20 LXX). Another way to say it might be an appetizer - a first taste of more to come. To the auditors, a covenant keeping God who takes on Himself the obligation to fulfill his promises was likely a radical idea in light of their context of a pantheon of fickle gods (cf 2:6). Not only will Gods people receive an inheritance of future glory (3:6 cf Psalm 47:4 he chooses our inheritance for us) they are themselves Gods own precious possession, the Kings private treasure (cf Ex 19.5, I Pet 2.9). Thus in 1:14 the ESV gives an alternate reading to until we acquire possession of it [i.e. the inheritance] with the words, until God redeems his possession.92 These words echo Deut 9:29 where Israel itself was to be God's "lot" or heritage. The Ephesian church is said to be His very glorious inheritance (1:18). To those who had only known alienation from God (2:12), who were empty people chasing empty things in the futility of their thinking (4:7-18), this new designation must have seemed like a downright exaggeration. Corporately they are said to be fellow heirs (2:6) of this prized inheritance (cf Rom 8:15 fellow heirs with Christ). It is, as F.F. Bruce noted, That God should set such a high value on a community of sinners, rescued from perdition and still bearing too many traces of their former state, might well seem incredible were it not made clear that he sees them in Christ, as from the beginning he chose them in Christ.93 William Brown complements Bruce by stating: The concept of the believers inheritance highlights the dignity of the family relationship of the believer
BDAG, S. 134. Thielman (pp. 84-86) prefers to follow Bengel and with him renders the noun translated obtain/secure/acquire as that which remains still, when after all other things perish to suggest that protection from the wrath to come is implied and so translates it for the redemption of the saved remnant. 93 F.F. Bruce. The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, The New international commentary on the New Testament. (Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans, 1984), p. 270.
91 92

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in Christ. No higher position or greater wealth can an individual acquire than to become an heir of God through faith in Christ.94 Again Paul prays that God might enlarge their capacity to know just who they are in Christ. Those with access to divine power
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (3.20-21)

In usin usfor you, Power that is at work within us, The immeasurable greatness of his power in usaccording to the working of his great might, To be strengthened with his might through his Spirit in the inner man. It is easy to forget that this sublime prose is coming from a man who is a prisoner, an ambassador in chains, who sees his imprisonment as a badge of honor; so much so that Richard Cassidy suggests that it is an element of identity formation. He notes, Paul is, in effect, holding high prisonership as a startling dimension of his Christian identity.' 95 This unlimited strength to rise above circumstances is what William MacDonald said is at the believers disposal in order that though the enabling of the Holy Spirit [one] can serve valiantly, endure patiently, suffer triumphantly, and, if need be, die gloriously.96 This is the story of Pauls life. Paul concludes his letter, strengthen yourselves (plural) in the Lord and in the strength of his might (6:10). This is a fitting conclusion to a group of saints who often felt impotent in their circumstances. It is a fitting closure to a chain of logic that went like this:


94William E. Brown, Inheritance in Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. electronic ed. Grand Rapids : Baker Book House, 1997, c1996 (Baker Reference Library; Logos Library System) 95 Heil, p.166 fn 4. quoting Richard J. Cassidy, Paul in Chains: Roman Imprisonment and the Letters of St. Paul. (New York: Crossroad Pub. Co, 2001), p. 98. 96William MacDonald; Arthur Farstad ed. Believers Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), S. 2 Ti 1:7.

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God plans and this is no wishful thinking. His Almighty Will displays itself in action. He chooses his own people, and executes a plan to bring them to himself. His raising of Christ from the dead, in spite of the apparent defeat of the cross is a resounding declaration of his capacity to pull off His plan. There is nothing outside of the jurisdiction of him who controls all things. You are part of Him, and the power that He has shown to make it happen is at the churchs disposal as you laugh at the threat of the so-called powers.

Temple/building
In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (2:21-22)

In sight of one of the wonders of the world, the temple of Artemis, a triumph of human workmanship, Paul tells his audience that they are even a greater wonder of the world.97 The Almighty God, creator of everything visible, has decided that by his own workmanship (3:10) he would make them, a rag-tag crowd of former misfits still with barnacles of sin clinging closely, the locus of his presence on earth. It was and is Gods presence dwelling among his people God is in the midst of her (Ps 46), a dwelling of God in the Spirit (2:22) - that determines their true identity as the qhl or ekklsia. For good reason, then,we read, a holy temple in the Lord. It could be said that they are a temple, from Him, through Him and to Him (cf. Romans 11:36). Barth rightly observed that this temple is defined not in anthropological or sociological terms but theologically.98 Gentile believers are assured with the words of v. 22, you too/you also are part of Gods plan to display his glory on the earth which was first of all a uniquely Jewish calling (cf. Isaiah 57, Ezek 37/43). They have become part of the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy that the temple at Jerusalem was to be the place where all nations at the end time would come to worship and pray (Is 66:1820; cf. Is 2:15; Mic 4:15). More than just joining


97 C. L. Brinks, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians: Acts 19:23-41 in light of goddess worship in Ephesus, Catholic Biblical Quarterly 71 no 4 (O 2009), p. 781. 98 Barth, Vol 1, p. 273.

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with others at this temple, they are, with others, this temple. In spite of their present insignificance in their own eyes, and in the eyes of their pagan neighbors, these believers have become part of Gods master plan to display this glory through a temple that will be fully revealed at the New Jerusalem. God builds them together, as Gombis points out, in a similar way that the ancient rulers did when they built a temple, namely to show his victory over his enemies. He states, The church does not gather at the temple, they gather as the temple.99 The gathered church then is a living monument to their undefeated Sovereign, the Lord Jesus, and it is Pauls prayer that the full manifest presence of the Shekinah glory of God would be found there. (3.19 cf. Lev 26:12; Ezek 37:27). For good reason, then, Paul uses a word for temple (naos derived from naio which means "to dwell") that Josephus suggested referred to the holy place or the holy of holies in the OT, known as the place where God dwells.100 Each of the stones of this house or dwelling place of God [=temple] is joined together, and each has a relationship to the cornerstone/capstone. All are built on an apostolic foundation which witnessed and proclaimed Christs work. In summary, to call the believers a temple is akin to the French phrase, noblesse obligenobility obliges, or has its obligations. A temple by definition is a statement of spiritual distinctiveness, and consecration to a sole deity. The Ephesian Christians are thus obliged, due to their noble standing as a temple, to fill the role as a singularly consecrated priesthood to God (cf Exodus 19).

99 Gombis (2010), p.88, sees the temple building parallel to ANE expressions of the victory of their rulers and shows how this is further exemplified in the likes of Exodus 15 where God is said to be a warrior. He thus sees the layout of Ephesians as encompassing lordship (1:20-23), conflict-victory (2:1-16), victory shout (2:17), celebration (2:18), and house-building (2:20-22). See also his Ephesians 3:2-13: pointless digression, or epitome of the triumph of God in Christ? Westminster Theological Journal 66 no 2 (Fall 2004), p 315. 100 Antiquities 15.11.5 417-20; 8.9.3, 95-96, cf. Robinson, pp. 71-72.

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The demonstration of Gods glory


His intent was that now, through [the instrumentality of] the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,11 according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord (3:10-11)

Just as a temple exists to declare the wonders of a conquering king, so the goal of God in choosing his people, according to Isaiah 43:20-21, was that they might declare his glory (cf. I Peter 2:9). In the Mediterranean world it was expected that a declaration of worth would be a public phenomenon. Thus, for example, a temple declaring the worth of Augustus would be constructed, and the world would know of it. The church exists, to the praise of his glory (1:12,14), and Paul pronounces a doxology in 3:21 which reads, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. The church is the place where Gods presence - his glory - dwells. Just as in the ancient temple, the presence of God was said to fill the temple (I Kings 8:10, Ez 10:3), so Paul prays that the Ephesians may be filled with the fullness of God (3:19).101 It is also the place that brings weightiness to his reputation by their actions among each other and in society. In a similar vein it was Irenaeus who said, The glory of God is a human being fully alive. The Ephesian believers are once again shown their high calling. Yet there is something going on in the invisible realm as well. In 3:10 we read that Gods intent, in the present, was that through.solar eclipses.the power of volcanic eruptions.tidal waves..the magnitude of the solar system.nothrough a most humble means, the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. We, like the recipients of the circular letter, need our imaginations to be challenged. The church? And we ask again, the
101 James M. Boice (p. 103) suggests that the fullness of God is a subjective genitive which he suggests implies that Paul seems to be praying that we (and all other Christians) may be filled up to or unto all the fullness that is in God himself in his Ephesians: An Expositional Commentary. (Grand Rapids, Mich: Ministry Resources Library, 1988).

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church? With this mission? Yes, as OBrien put it, perhaps with slight exaggeration, to be co-managers of Gods cosmic mission.102

The new humanity


His purpose was to create in himself one new man/humanity out of the two (2:15), that he might make the two in Himself, into one new man. (Ellicott)

Backgrounds fade away. Jews proud of their long religious history and for whom the rest of the world were dogs, and Greeks proud of their philosophical and cultural achievements for whom the rest of the world were barbarians, suddenly see that God in Christ had to re-create them both. They were not just made into one man. They were made into one new mana new corporate entity. This is abrogation at its best, or as one said, This is the people of God newly constituted. Together they were created in Christ for good works (2:10), with a new nature (4:24) - like a new Adam. To demonstrate His plan for cosmic re-unification, God decided that the church would no longer consist of those who formerly were said to be far away from God (Deut. 28:49; 29:22; 1 Kings 8:41; Isa. 5:26; Jer. 5:15); i.e. the Gentiles, nor those who were said to be close to God (cf. Ps. 148:14), i.e. the Jews and Jewish proselytes, but a completely new race would be born. Thus in 1 Cor. 10:32 we read, not of Jews or Gentiles, but of a third race, namely the church of God. 103 Clement of Alexandria [153-217] said, We who worship God in a new way, as the third race, are Christians.104 Two commentators living some 1500 years apart describe this third race.105 Their message is essentially the same, namely that
OBrien, (2005), p. 6. This is not designed to be a statement concerning the relationship between the church and Israel, although it could be conceived as such. See fn #3 - Lincoln (1987) for a detailed discussion. 104 The Preaching of Peter in Clement of Alexandria, Stromata. 6.5.41 105 Used in the Epistle to Diognetus [dated between 117 and 310], also in Scorpiace (or Antidote for the Scorpions Sting) ca 215 where the persecutors of Christians ask, How long must we suffer, the third race? or Death to the third race! in
102 103

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the new creation totally overshadows the old. John Chrysostom, [ca. 347407]. preaching to what would appear to be a non-Jewish audience, who would be looking at the Jews as having a special dignity, comments on this verse:
He does not mean that He has elevated us to that high dignity of theirs, but He has raised both us and them to one still higher...I will give you an illustration. Let us imagine that there are two statues, one of silver and the other of lead, and then both shall be melted down, and the two shall come out gold. So thus He has made the two one.106

Lincoln, as well drives home the point of newness, by means of an analogy from the world of chemistry. He states:
[The church] in its newness, it is not merely an amalgam of the old in which the best of Judaism and the best of Gentile aspirations have been combined. The two elements which were used in the creation have become totally transformed in the process. This is the third race which is different from both Jews and Gentiles.107

This language of re-creation follows the archetype of the old Adam/new Adam, old humanity/new humanity. The ultimate New Man is Jesus, and in Him the church puts on the new man characterized by righteousness and holiness (4:24). This is both an individual and corporate requirement. Conversely, it puts off the old man which is driven and deluded by its lusts (4:22) and literally is putrefying (see fn # 46). The old self is completely incompatiAlexander Roberts, James Donaldson, A. Cleveland Coxe, The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. III: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, 1997), S. 643. Also Origen Contra Cels. 8.2; Justin Dial. 119; Tertullian Ad nat.M 1.8).

106 Chrysostom, Homily V. Vol 13 in Homilies on the Epistles to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, and The Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. in Philip Schaff, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Vol. XIII. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, 1997) S. 71, Cited by Eadie, p. 171. 107 Lincoln, p. 143. Compare this with David Garland who asserts that, the division between Jews, Greeks, and the church of God is thus to be explained by the fact that each has different reactions to the conduct of Christians, not that Paul thought that Christians were a third race in his 1 Corinthians. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2003), S. 501

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ble with the kingdom of God (4:2532; 5:35). The situation is either/or, not both/and. New citizens/household
Consequently, you are no longer strangers and aliens [without rights of citizenship], but/in contrast you are fellow-citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (2.19)

It would be easy for the Ephesian church to start to think that they were second-class citizens, now that they have distanced themselves from the elements that held the social fabric of their society together. They no longer could call Augustus and the whole imperial cult their savior; all of the states propaganda about its good news as to its exploits paled in comparison to the real euangelion in Christ; Artemis, the goddess of Ephesus was no longer their source of nurture and protection; and the magic arts, so revered by their society, now looked like puffery hiding a demonic power-base. Additionally Jewish background believers might have looked on the Gentiles as being less loved by God than they were. Using the inclusive language of fellow Paul shows his audience that they belong to something much bigger than themselves. They are fellow heirs, fellow beneficiaries, fellow members of the body, fellow-partakers (3:6) and now fellow-citizens together with all of Gods new people in Christ.108 A great reversal has happened. Formerly they were excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world (2:12), and now they are, as MGhee stated, fellowcitizens[with the saints] of those, of whom some serve Him here on earth, and some surround the Throne of His glory.with whom is the highest privilege of man.109 Note that their primary

108 Note the frequency of the phrase together with as well. Building is joined. (2:21); being built (2:22); heirs , members sharers (3:6); powerwith all the saints (3:18). 109 Eadie, p. 191, quoting M'Ghee's Lectures on Ephesians, vol. L (London, 1848), p. 323.

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identity was not as fellow-citizens with Ephesus, but with another polis, the heavenly city, with its outpost of the church, on earth. They have been given the right of citizenship, just as God said in Exodus 6:7 to a people who had no rights of citizenship, Then I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians." In Gods economy, then, they were freemen and had the right to be represented at the peoples assembly, namely the ekklsia, and had all the rights of citizens, guaranteed by the new head of state, King Jesus. God described them as wandering and sometimes tolerated strangers, stateless and excluded from domestic privileges, even though at that time they might have been-full blown, card-carrying Roman citizens who were patrons of the Augustus/Artemis cult, honored by all in society. Now, in contrast to their former state, God says that, in Christ, they are full members of a new society, a new household/ homeland, so intimate that it can call God the Father, its head. They are members of a new oikos and as Best states, Those who were once outsiders are now insiders, albeit with quite a different meaning from some contemporary movements.110 Imitators of God
therefore you (plural) are to be being imitators of God (5:1)

In the preceding context, the believers are asked to collectively model Gods kindness and forbearance to them in Christ. They are to do so as those who are in the Beloved or beloved children. Paul commands the Ephesian church to be who it is. It is to mimic God Himself. This is not completely foreign to Greek thought: Barth notes that present in their culture was the idea that the visible world is formed after the pattern of the invisible and reflects in some way the perfections of ideas, pure forms, or the gods.111 Thus God can say to the church, mimic me and, Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matt 5:48). Barth suggests that the life of the church in chapter 5 is also a reflection of the Godhead,


110 111

Best, p. 279. Barth, p. 591.

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notably its light, righteousness, goodness, and even its expression of joy in singing. The emphasis of the Old Testament should not be underestimated, as well. Israel was to model its ethical behavior on certain aspects of the character of YHWH. We see this in Deut 10:17-19 where the model for Israel's love of the stranger is derived from God's love of the stranger; and in Lev 11:44-45 God tells Israel to be holy, for I am holy. In Lev 20:26 the injunction for imitation and consequent separation is even stronger: "You shall be holy to me, as I YHWH am holy, and separated from the peoples to be mine.112 It can be said as well that the church is to be modeled on the love, unity and diversity of the Trinity along with the voluntary submission of Christ to the Father. It can be said that the church, as the new humanity, is created in the image of the Trinity, in a similar way that the old humanity was created in the image of God. Edmund Clowney thus states that, in the history of revelation, The Old Testament people of God [the Father] become the church of the Messiah, formed as the fellowship of the Spirit.113 Logically then, Pauls prayer for the Ephesian church in 3:16-19 is addressed to the Father, concerns the indwelling of Christ by faith, and asks for the inner strengthening of the Holy Spirit. Light in the Lord
.you (plural) are light in the Lord (5:8)

The prophecy of Isaiah has come true (cf Isa 42:6; 49:6). Light for the Gentiles has penetrated their moral darkness, resulting in new creations, in a fashion not unlike the first creation where light penetrated darkness. Paul and the other apostles saw that they were instruments to fulfill the prophecy (Acts 13:47; 26:23). Now the Ephesian church is a light to continue the spread of salvation to the ends of the earth.
112 Translation by Walter Houston in his The character of YHWH and the ethics of the Old Testament: is imitatio Dei appropriate? Journal of Theological Studies, ns 58 no 1 (Ap 2007), pp. 8-9. 113 Edmund Clowney, The Church. (Downers Grove, Il.: IVP, 1995), p. 29.

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Paul makes it crystal clear that the believers of Ephesus are more than just a lampstand; they are light. He compares their former state of being darkness itself with their present state of being light itself (5:7-8). In modern terms we might call this a change from being a black hole to becoming a supernova. Similarly words, like saint, temple, bride all imply antithesis with the past lives of the believers. They are such because they are in the Lord; the light source itself. The Bride of Christ Literally translated, Eph. 5:27 reads, glorious/splendid the church (cf. Rev. 19:7-8). How did such a compliment get such a prominent position? Glorious? The word glorious is a catch-all to describe this resplendent bride as: young, pure, spotless, bejeweled, immaculately dressed, unwrinkled, innocent, consecrated to her husband because of His consecration for her, and set apart solely for him. The OT antecedents for this picture begin in Ex 6:7 where God uses an ANE marriage formula, I will take you as my own wife, and I will be your husband, to marry himself, as it were, to Israel. He transforms it to read, I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. This is further elaborated in Ez 16:1-22 where God picked up Israel as an abandoned baby girl, raised her, bathed (v 9), clothed her with finery and jewels, and married her (cf Jer 2:2; Isa 65:5). Then, by means of show and tell in the life of Hosea, God describes His continual faithfulness in the light of Israels continual unfaithfulness - call it serial adultery - in their marriage relationship. All of this points to Christ who will have a new covenant relationship with his bride, the church, and who takes those who formerly lived in serial adultery with the world and sets them apart for himself (cf 2 Cor 11: 2-5; Rev 19-22). Similar to the OT picture which shows Gods initiative in the relationship, it is Christ Himself who performs the purification of the bride, who gives Himself up for her, and eventually will present her to His Father in all her splendor/radiance. Perhaps we have echoes here from Hellenistic Judaism where Asenths wedding gown was like lightning in appearance, or Canticles 4:7 where the

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bride is beautiful and flawless.114 Yet, in contrast to other wedding ceremonies, as Ellicott notes, Christ permits neither attendants nor paranymphs to present the Bride: he alone presents.115 All of this description of the church as a spotless Bride has an already, not yet feel to it. Evidence all around us might cause one to think this is a utopian picture, but once again we, like the Ephesian church, are pushed to look at things from Gods perspective. Again, present reality needs to be shaped by the final consummation of the wedding at the Parousia (Rev. 19:79; 21:12) or, as has been observed elsewhere, the shadow of the solid future reality needs to fall on the present. Consider the timeless words of Eadies commentary, now more than 150 years old:
Such, then is to be the ultimate perfection and destiny of the church. In her spotless purity the love of Christ finds its extreme and glorious design realized. That love which led Him to die in order to bestow pardon and to secure holiness, is not contented till its object be robed in unsullied and unchanging purity.116

The bride is His and His alone. He accepts no competitors for her affection, and during this betrothal period she is to remain faithful to him. (2 Cor 11:2; Eph 5:24). The monogamous union of Christ and the church then is an image of the eventual unity of the cosmos which is to be realized in Christ. The Body of Christ /One Body in Christ
And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (1:22-23).

As we can see, the epistle to the Ephesians resonates between architectural metaphors (building/temple), social metaphors (family/household, citizens) and organic ones (body/members). The common theme to all is that they are all images of a corporate reality.
(Jos. Asen. 18 [OTP 2:231-32]) quoted by Thielman, p. 386. C.J. Ellicott, A Commentary, Critical and Grammatical, on St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians. (Andover: Warren F. Draper, 1862), p. 135. 116 Eadie, p. 422.
114 115

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Drawing on similar ideas in 1 Cor 12:12-27 and Romans 12:4-5 the church is described in Eph 1:23; 2:16; 4:4, 12; 5:23 as a body. It goes without saying, that these can imply: interconnectedness within (4:16), vitality, distinction from other bodies, unity (3:5; 4:4), having Christ as its head (4:15; 5:23), harmony within (2:16; 4:25), membership/ participation/belongingness/solidarity within (2:6), development and growth (4:16) and an object of care/nourishment (5:29). This is not just the stuff of academia. Consider the ramifications of the above picture colliding with the modern-day mind-set which has jettisoned this inter-connectedness, authority structures and commitment of the parts to the whole. Jonathan Leeman in his timely The Church and the Surprising Offense of God's Love: Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline comments on the prevailing attitudes in the West today, and traces how this affects the corporate life of the church:
Every attachment is negotiable. We are all free agents, and every relationship and life station is a contract that can be renegotiated or cancelled.... I retain veto power over everything.117

Scholars have wrangled over the meaning of Christ as the head of the body, and Arnold shows that the head can be summed up as an omnipresent dynamic presence which has the power to perceive, to interpret, to coordinate, and to unify all that goes on, or which happens to the body and its members.118 In a word, it is the cohesive and enabling factor for the body.119 What happens to the church is not a distant reality for Christ. In fact, when Paul persecutes the Church, Christ calls that a persecution of Himself (Acts 9:4f.). Listen to what Lightfoot described as the function of the head in relationship to the body: [It is the] inspiring, ruling, guiding,


117 Jonathan Leeman, The Church and the Surprising Offense of God's Love: Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline. (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2010), p. 44. 118 Clinton Arnold, The power of God and the powers of evil in Ephesians, (PhD Diss: University of Aberdeen, 1986), p. 182. 119 Clinton Arnold, Ephesians, power and magic: the concept of power in Ephesians in light of its historical setting. (Cambridge:Cambridge U. Press, 1989), p. 82.

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combining, sustaining power, the mainspring of its activity, the centre of its unity, and the seat of its life." In a word it connotes both source and authority. Compare these descriptions with what Seneca [4 BC-65 AD] said of Caesars role as unifier and sustainer in his De clementia, written about 55/56 AD:
[He, the emperor, is] the bond by which the commonwealth is united, the breath of life which these many thousands draw, who in their own strength would be only a burden to themselves and the prey of others if the great mind of the empire should be withdrawn .120

In the same document he addresses Nero with the following words:


We are pleased to hope and trust, Caesar, that in large measure this will happen. That kindness of your heart will be recounted, will be diffused little by little throughout the whole body of the empire, and all things will be moulded [sic] into your likeness. It is from the head that comes the health of the body; it is through it that all the parts are lively and alert or languid and drooping according as their animating spirit has life or withers.121

Paul knew his audience and his context. By means of subtle, yet powerful comparison he shows that the Christ has substance, and that the Caesar is more like a vapor. The latter has a title str but no eternal saving power.122 By contrast, Christ delivers the goods. He saves his church by plan and by power as the true Str, the Divine Savior. It is from Christ as the head of the church, then, that all the Divine graces which reside in Him are imparted to her, as Lightfoot noted. He continues, His fulness is communicated to

McVay, p. 116. Ibid, p. 119. 122 Pompey was known as Soter and Founder; Caesar Soter of the World; and Augustus Soter of Humankind.
120 121

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her: and thus she may be said to be His pleroma.123 In slightly less archaic language, Thielman summarizes that the church is being filled by Christ, the One who is being continually and completely/wholly/altogether filled by God.124 Could there be a more dignified identity than this? Yet there is more. With the Head of the church seated in the heavenlies, the church then, as his body, becomes seated with Him there. Her perspective suddenly changes as she looks with something of a birds eye view on reality. More than that, in a way that defies imagination, especially as we read and hear of martyrdom of believers due to hostile forces arrayed against them, these same inimical powers lie conquered beneath its feet, just as they lie conquered beneath Christs feet.125 As much as hostile forces might try to dismember the local representation of the Body of Christ, and we have observed this happening literally, their action will be shown to be ultimately futile. One might object that this is just a little too ethereal for their taste, and Ernst Ksemann helps to bring the image back to earth. He suggests a very practical application for the body image. "The exalted Christ, he affirms, really has an earthly body, and believers with their whole being are actually incorporated into it and have therefore to behave accordingly.126 Thus they bring the light and perspective of heaven, as they live and act as members of one another (4:25), as they are bearing with one another in love (4:2) and singing, speaking, and submitting to one another (5:19, 21). An army
you (plural) be strong put ontake up stand(6:10-14)


123 Arnold (1986, p. 189) quoting J.B. Lightfoot, St. Paul's Epistles to the Colossians & to Philemon. A Rev. Text with Introductions, Notes & Dissertations. (London: Macmillan & co, 1876), p. 223, 329. 124 Thielman, p. 115. 125 Ibid, p. 113. 126 Ernst Ksemann, "The Theological Problem Presented by the Motif of the Body of Christ," in Perspectives on Paul. (London:SCM Press, 1971), pp. 102-21; cf. 104 as cited by Timothy L. Carter, Looking at the Metaphor of Christ's Body in I Corinthians 12, in Stanley E. Porter, Paul: Jew, Greek, and Roman.(Leiden: Brill, 2008), p. 93.

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As long as the devil, or the evil one, the rulers and authorities, the cosmic powers of this present darkness and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms continue to wage their spiritual battle against Gods people, the church described in military terms (Eph 6:10-17) must be prepared for spiritual warfare. The church follows in the Divine Warrior motif of the Old Testament (e.g. Is 59) with the same courage that Gods people could face formidable foes, with the certain knowledge of fait accompli namely, I have given them into your hand (cf Deut 2:24; Jos 10:8). The Divine Warrior Jesus is already seated on his victory throne, the church with him and all things completely under subjection beneath his feet (1:22 cf Gen 3:15). From there they gain strength to wage a spiritual battle on earth. The churchs armaments are no flesh and blood weaponry, but rather consist of a complete defensive and offensive armor which includes the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes for proclaiming the gospel of peace, the shield of faith to extinguish flaming arrows, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (cf.Is 59:1718; cf. Wis 5:1720). Just as the military stands guard, so the church is on her watch, and she prays. Just as Jesus wins by losing, so the church follows in its footsteps. In so doing, it is as Gombis suggests, subversive and cruciform. It is subversive because its presence is at once an announcement to the powers that they are defeated, and cruciform because it knows that its Champion has already won the decisive D-Day battle at the cross, and it will advance in spite of any humiliation it encounters on its march to V-Day. 8 Analysis 8.1 The ekklsia of Ephesians summarized The church as it is described in the book of Ephesians is a most exclusive, yet inclusive community, comprised of members, none of

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whom merit their membership and whose focus is on its Head, Jesus Christ. Its corporate nature has been stressed in each of the images applied to its description, and this might be encapsulated in the word common. Note how Hendrik Kraemer describes this corporation, i.e. embodied reality:
The Church is, according to the New Testament, the ecclesia, the community and fellowship of those who are united in common faith, common love and common worship of Him who is their Life and Head, bound in loyalty towards Him, permeated, inspired and chastened by His Spirit.127

This church has one holy catholic and apostolic dignity, and this is the message that Paul has tried to inculcate in his readers. Their dignity lies in the fact that the church is Gods chosen and appointed instrument to call the world back to Christs lordship, through its sacraments, gospel proclamation and by its presence. The church as Peter OBrien suggests, is not only the pattern but also the means God is using to show that his purposes are moving triumphantly to their climax.128 This climax, as F.F. Bruce mentioned, is the reconciled universe of the future. He suggests, furthermore, that the church is Gods pilot scheme for this grand finale.129 If, as some current commentators suggest, we see the ekklsia first and foremost as a heavenly gathering around the ascended Christ with local small scale expressions, microcosms, of the same on earth, then passages like blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ (1:3), and God has made them alive with him, raised them up with him, and seated them in the heavenly realms in Christ (2:56) make more sense. In this way believers are given a heavenly perspective, a heavenly dignity, and a taste of heavenly bliss as they are related to Christ and so related to

127 Hendrik Kraemer, The Christian Message in a Non-Christian World. (Grand Rapids: Published for the International Missionary Council by Kregel Publications, 1956), p. 416. 128 O'Brien, p. 63. 129 Bruce (1984), pp. 321-322, 262 quoted by OBrien, p.247.

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each other, even while enduring earthly humiliation in at times isolated fashion.130 One thinks of Nurta Mohamed Farah in Somalia, isolated from her friends, isolated from her family, who was subsequently martyred for her faith. Not threats, forced medication for psychosis, Quranic readings to change her mind, isolation by confinement or chaining her to a tree, could get her mind off of the heavenly assembly, where she was and is now seated.131 To summarize in a few words, this assembly of the saved, this new multiracial community of the people of God newly constituted, is wholly dependant on Another for its existence; present and future. It has no grounds for boasting - in its brilliant decision to organize, its strategies to multiply, or its novel ways of constituting itself. As the pilot project of the ultimate reconciliation of the universe it is mandated to model this reconciliation within its walls via visible unity, and with other microcosms of the same, in unity with them. 8.2 Another look at the ekklsia of the Insider M ovement Recall that we mentioned 5 characteristics of the new ekklesias as described in IM literature. They were: 1. 2. 3. 4. It is possible to have an ekklesia of Muslim followers of Jesus. These are ekklesia in the New Testament sense. They are new. They are described in orthodox language in that they obey Christ, belong to Christ and are said to be Christ centered fellowships which congregate together and do things like study the Bible, pray, celebrate baptism and the Lords Supper. 5. They have corporate identities. 8.3 Comparison
cf OBrien, pp 146-147. Somali Teenage Girl Shot to Death for Embracing Christ Compass Direct News, (December 3, 2010) www.compassdirect.org/english/country/somalia/29407/ (Accessed 2010/12/07)
130 131

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1. Whereas separation/distinction/purity/dignity all comprise the ekklsia of the OT and NT, including Ephesians due to the fact that they are divinely birthed and ordered, the IM literature with its ekklesia of Muslim followers of Jesus appears to contort the OT and NT idea of ekklsia, as it blurs distinctiveness. Whereas the letter to the Ephesians works to create revulsion for the past lives of its now Christian audience, this is not the case with IM, albeit under the rubric of being an effective witness within Islam. The ekklsia of the Ephesians was told no longer to walk, i.e. conduct their day to day life (cf 2:2,10;4:1, 17 (2x); 5:2,8,15), in the old ways determined by and oriented according to the powerful influences of a spatiotemporal complex wholly hostile to god, which I would submit in present day terms could apply to Islam is as well. 132 By contrast, IM seems to think that this so called new ekklsia can walk between two opinions. Is this evidence of a wind of teaching (cf 4:14)? One cannot help but wonder if this is a tacit denial of the part of the creed which reads One Holy. 2. A New Testament sense. This is a vague term, as it could imply that the New Testament is discontinuous with the Old, or it appeals to a body of thought that idealizes the New Testament church. IM is not clear here. We have, however, noted that ekklsia is a term derived from the entire Bible. IM would have done well to carefully study Newbigins exposition of the public and provocative nature of the New Testament churchs word choice. Nothing in the word ekklsia, as he suggests, is about flying below the radar nor, might we add, a departure from the nature of the OT qhl. Could a dispensational hermeneutic be at work here, which compartmentalizes Gods workings and almost hermetically separates the people of God of Israel and of the church? 3. Whereas the ekklsia of Ephesians is said to be composed of a new humanity, this is anything but a novel idea. It has strong OT antecedents and was conceived in eternity by the mind of God. IM literature presents an ekklsia that is new but which is actually no-


132

Gombis (2004), p. 410.

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vel. Novelty is well informed by the spirit of the age. One wonders if the manipulations by some over-zealous IMrs to guard the purity of the insiders from the rest of the messiness of the more visible church, is actually a denial of One Catholic church. Catholicity, by definition implies according to the whole - complete; or as Berkhouwer suggests, it implies boundaries and walls that have been broken, open windows, wideness, and universality.133 As much as some orthodox activities are said to happen in the new ecclesias, their inter-relationship with the rest of the Body of Christ visible might well indicate a failure of an acid test of orthodoxy. 4. Whereas the various images of the ekklsia in Ephesians focus on the identity of the church as the wellspring of her actions, IM descriptions focus strongly on the ekklsias actions. This may be due to a propensity of IM to think sociologically first, and theologically second. There is no mention in the IM descriptions of the preaching of the Word, which historically has been one of the marks of the church.134 Yet Paul goes to great lengths in the book of Ephesians (3:7-13) to show that this was the means by which the church was born. Gombis comments, Yet, astonishingly, it is by his preaching of the gospel that the creative power of God is unleashed and engaged, and the church, the arena of the triumph of God, is called into being thereby displaying the wisdom of Christ135 One wonders if ,by definition, IM has excluded itself from being able to call itself Apostolic, i.e. founded by messengers, and on historic doctrinal foundations.


133 G. C. Berkouwer, The Church (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1976), p. 107. 134 Calvins Institutes: Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to Christs institution, there, it is not to be doubted, a church of God exists (ICR, 4.1.9). 135 Gombis (2004), pp.322-3. We are not unaware of the study by David Greenlee, "New Faith, Renewed Identity: How Some Muslims are Becoming followers of Jesus" www.edinburgh2010.org/fileadmin/files/edinburgh2010/files/pdf /New_Faith_Renewed_Identity_DG.pdf (Accessed 2010/12/8), but we wonder if he goes far enough in showing just how renewed are identities in Christ.

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There is a curious absence of clergy in the few IM statements that we have examined. Could this also be due to influences of the anti-clerical bent both of a modern day mindset suspicious of authority, and that of some of the radical Anabaptists? A close look at the metaphor of ligaments and the various ministry positions in Ephesians reveals the place and importance of the role of ordained ministers, as servants who help to bring the church to maturity. As much as baptism is said to be celebrated, one wonders how carrying the title Muslim, and being a marked person set aside for God within the people of God as signified by baptism, can happen simultaneously. The term Christ-centered and Muslim are shown to be used in the descriptions of the same ekklsias by IM. This exposes a misunderstanding on the part of IM of the term ekklsia or of what it means to be a Muslim.136 Would IM go as far as to say that the people of Israel could worship YHWH in the temple of Dagon without any problems, or that a priest of YHWH could serve at the temple of Baal? 5. A corporate identity is great. Yet it is as good as the sum of its parts. It seems that IM ecclesiology would see each grouping of followers of Jesus, as a part of the whole Body of Christ. Without splitting hairs too much, would it not be better, as some theologians have done, to say that each grouping of saints is a microcosm and local representation of the heavenly assembly, not unlike an embassy on foreign soil? An embassy is not self-determining. It is determined from without, i.e. from its sending country, and ultimately by its head of state. 8.4 Summary


136 We will assume that being identified as a Muslim or with Islam or being a Muslim or being a faithful Muslim means that one keeps the social/religious/ cultural/legal identity as a Muslim, or to use the words of Phil Parshall, The communicator is saying he or she is totally within the Islamic ummah. Phil Parshall, Muslim Evangelism: Contemporary Approaches to Contextualization. (Waynesboro, Ga: Gabriel Pub, 2003), p. 72.

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In his thorough exposition of what it means to be One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, John Boonzaayer, concludes with some practical ramifications of actually believing this statement.137 He suggests that this will influence the following areas: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. The congregations view of itself The congregations interaction with other congregations The churchs attitude toward the scriptures The churchs use of the scriptures The manner and content of Christian worship The manner and content of evangelism

Space does not permit an examination of IMs ecclesiology at each of these points, but the first point might suffice for this paper since it deals with the self-identity of the Ephesian church. Boonzaayer comments on a churchs self-identification:
Frequently, churches tend to view themselves as autonomous congregations of people who hold meetings, have fellowship, study the Bible and bring worship to God.

Recall that it was stated by an IM proponent that: C5 believers form Christ-centered fellowships in which they study the Bible, pray, and celebrate baptism and the Lord's Supper. These are ekklesia in the New Testament sense. At first flush everything sounds great. IM sounds orthodox. There is just one hitch, and Boonzaayer addresses it adroitly: The problem with this view is that it is virtually a completely anthropocentric orientation. In a word, it is all about what humans are doing, forming, celebrating. Contrast this with YHWHs orders to Moses in Ex 3:18 to tell Pharaoh, The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us.[therefore] All parties would do well to recall the originator, convener, speaker, sustainer, and raison dtre of the qhl and then we can determine if something is truly an ekklsia, New Testament or otherwise.


137 John Boonzaayer, One Holy Catholic Church, Reformation & Revival Journal Vol. 8. No 3 (Summer 1999), pp. 43-47.

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9 Conclusion The letter to the Ephesians was written, as was suggested, to correct a deficient sense of what it means to belong to the church, along with a diminishing awareness of the church's origins and place in history. Might this be a dj vu? In the letter to the Ephesians the clear identity of the membership of the ekklsia by means of pictures at an exhibition is used to re-dynamise the love, desire for unity and uniqueness, witness and worship of the audience of the circular letter. They are to become, in effect, who they already are, and we submit that would be, One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It does so by showing that the ekklsia has its beginning, continuation, and consummation in Christ, consistent with the English origins of the word church from the Greek kyriakos, - belonging to the Lord. Unfortunately, with its lack of clear definition of what an ekklsia actually is, along with blurred lines of its distinctiveness and a failure to take it out of its Muslim milieu to its prestigious status of being seated in heavenly places with Christ, IM contributes more to identity de-formation or confusion.138 It has been said that a high Christology as seen in the book of Ephesians should lead to a high ecclesiology. This appears to be an area of great challenge for IM.


138 Compare IM descriptions of the identity of the church and this one which summarizes the book of Ephesians by Andrew Lincoln and A.J.M Wedderburn, The first part of the letter treated believers' identity in terms of their status and position and one of the most striking expressions of that position was that they had been seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (c.f. 2:6). The second part of the letter treated what it meant to live out such a calling in the world and in its exhortations repeatedly used the verb 'to walk' (cf. 4:1; 4:4:17; 5:2; 5:8; 5:15). Now the concluding call combines the emphases on sitting and walking in its exhortation to the readers to stand, that is, to maintain and appropriate their position of strength and victory as they live worthily of their calling in the face of the opposition of evil cosmic forces," in The Theology of the Later Pauline Letters (Great Britain: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 125-26.

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The multi-faceted, multi-textured image of the ekklsia of Ephesians contributes positively to the development of the church, even in its culture, with its sub-theme of noblesse oblige. In contrast the ekklsia of IM seems to sink to the lowest common denominator of the culture, as it seeks to retain its identity as Muslim. Would it not be better to just call it, if we must use a foreign word, ummah? After all, a correct understanding of the church is critical. For further reflection In light of this paper how would you respond to a comment that was made from the floor at the International Society for Frontier Missions meeting in Orlando, September 2009?
That brings up the matter of how insider movements deal with the rest of our Christian community. Its a question of ecclesiology. For me, the church is whoever is a part of the body of Christ. That means an insider movement is a church, meeting at the mosque or whatever. I notice that several of those who attack insider movements point out that its absolutely critical that believers identify with the historic Christian church. So it is an ecclesiastical question, isnt it?139


139 H.L. Richard [moderator] Unpacking the Insider Paradigm: An Open Discussion on Points of Diversity, International Journal of Frontier Missiology 26:4 (Winter 2009), p. 180.

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Appendix 1: Select list of images of the church


1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34. 35. One flock Jn.10.16 The body of Christ 1 Cor.12.27; Eph.1.23; Col.1.18 The temple of God 1 Cor. 3.16; 2 Cor.6.16; Eph.2.21-22 The new Jerusalem Heb.12.22 The heavenly Jerusalem Rev.21.2 The pillar and ground of the truth 1 Tim.3.15 The salt of the earth Mt.5.13; The light of the world Mt. 5.14 A letter from Christ 2 Cor. 3.2-3 Branches of the vine John 15.5 The olive tree Rom.11.13-24 Gods field 1 Cor.3.9 Gods building 1 Cor.3.9 The elect lady 3 Jn. 1 The wife or bride of Christ Eph.5.22-31 Wearers of the wedding garment Mt.22.1-14; Rev. 19.7 Fellow citizens of the saints Eph.2.19 Gods house Eph.2.19 Strangers in the world 1 Pet.1.1; 2.11; Heb.11.13 Ambassadors 2 Cor. 5.18-21 The people of God 1 Pet.2.9-10 A chosen race 1 Pet. 2.9 A holy nation 1 Pet.2.9 A royal priesthood 1 Pet.2.9 The circumcision Phil.3.3-11 Abrahams sons Gal.3.29; Rom.4.16 The tabernacle of David Acts 15.16 The Remnant Rom. 9.27; 11.5-7 Israel Gal. 6.15-16 Gods elect Rom. Rom.8.33 The faithful in Christ Jesus Eph.1.1 A new creation 2 Cor.5.17 A new man Col.3.10 The kingdom of God (or of heaven) Mt. 13 Disciples Mt.28.19

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36. 37. 38. 39. 40.

The Way Acts 9.2; 19.9, 23; 22.4; 24.14,22 Slaves of God, of Christ, and of righteousness Rom.6.18, 22 Sons of God Rom.8.14 The brotherhood 1 Pet. 2.17; 5.9 Christians Acts 12.26

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