“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” – Romans 8:16-17
There are two things I’ve noticed when it comes to these verses. 1) I always seem to hear the first part…the “children of God” and “heirs with Christ” part… in Christian teaching. 2) The second part….the provision of suffering in order for any of the aforementioned statuses to be true…that part doesn’t seem to make it into the sermon.
I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t feel like an honest portrayal of Christianity for anyone inside or out of the Christian faith to proclaim that we are heirs of Christ while not mentioning the pre-requisite for that status. It seems more admirable for American churches to focus on and teach what scripture actually says about our position in the Heavenly realm rather that what simply feels good. I mean, come on, we’re supposed to be the image bearers of Christ and the proclaimers of His truth…not a gimmicky marketing campaign. Contrary to how the verse is often presented, this portion of scripture in no way indicates that the provision for attaining the status of “children of God” and “heirs with Christ” involves going to church, doing ministry, worship, listening to “Christian” music, dressing “modestly,” or any other rule that church people tend to focus on. The provision for attaining the status of “children of God” and “heirs with Christ” is one thing….that we suffer with Him…end of verse.
I mean, let that sink in for a minute. We are heirs with Christ, provided that we suffer with him. Provided that we suffer with Him. Provided that we suffer with Him. And….Jesus suffered a lot. He suffered in a lot of different ways. He was misunderstood, despised, rejected, lied about, constantly accused of untrue things, betrayed by people who swore to follow him, left alone in his greatest moments of need, and then tortured and killed. And Scripture tells us to be like him. To follow in His footsteps, and to suffer with him. And only if we suffer with Him, are we children of God as He is.
How many of us (myself included at times) in moments of not even real suffering but rather just minor inconveniences, remember that actual suffering is the pre-requisite to being an heir of Christ, and in that knowledge, thank God for it? I’d venture to say, not many. I know I certainly forget way too often. But I read this scripture and get angry at the Americanized churches that conveniently forget to teach that suffering is absolutely the pre-requisite to being an heir of Christ. That if we aren’t suffering, we aren’t doing something right. That if we’re totally comfortable in our lives, we’re actually doing something wrong. And if we’re seeking nothing but comfort and ease, we’re DEFINITELY seeking the wrong things.
It’s a truth that counters both culture and what is often taught from the pulpit. It’s a mindset that is totally foreign to our current culture and society. But it IS the truth and reality of Scripture, and I think we need to fully grasp and understand it (and other hard truths like it) before we jump on a bandwagon we don’t honestly know anything about.