I’ve noticed that being ill has helped me to read the Bible through a new lens. And consequently, passages that once seemed irrelevant to me, have taken on new meaning. In Mark 8:31-32, just after Peter states his belief that Jesus is the Christ, Jesus tries to tell his disciples that he will undergo rejection, suffering, and death. Clearly, Peter is envisioning a Christ whose reign is marked by power and success, and so Peter takes Jesus aside and begins to “rebuke” him. In response, Jesus tells Peter, “you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Mark 8:33). For the past couple of days, I have been thinking about Mark 8:33. How relevant it is to me! For like Peter, “things of man” is my framework for viewing the world, for making judgements and decisions. When my life is not a clear and straight upward trajectory, I despair and sense failure. The framework of men—the worldview of Peter and I—doesn’t involve suffering, being rejected, or dying (these are the very things in Mark 8:31 that Peter reacts against as Jesus announces them). Yet, Jesus insists that his soon coming suffering is a thing of God. For, paradoxically, whoever want to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will save it (Mark 8:35). I am reminded again that, in God’s worldview, losing is gaining and failing is winning. The central act of Jesus on this earth was to … Read More
Paul’s statement that ‘To live is Christ and to die is gain’ is one of the boldest sentences in Scripture. As Christians, it’s a passage that we often quote and that we readily intellectually assent to; however, most of us—if honest—sense that we are not really living it the way that Paul was. Our lives (time, money, passion) are not wholly given over to serving; and we do not face death fearlessly, longing for union with God. I’ve wanted to really understand these words. And as someone who now has an illness, I feel it’s imperative. This statement of Paul is found in the book of Philippians, which though a short letter, has some of the most recognized and poetic passages in the Bible. And much to my surprise, when I took a deeper look, I found that this book is all about suffering. So why does Paul write an entire letter addressing suffering?
The books of the Old Testament prophets can be so challenging to read that it’s easy to overlook the big concepts and the larger historical events that these books reference. I’ve been reading through the Old Testament books of Amos and Hosea lately and one of the most fascinating things to me about these men is that although they devoted their lives trying to save the people of northern Israel, they ultimately failed. What does it mean that God called Amos and Hosea to spend their entire lives doing something that was met with utter failure?