July 29: The Suffering and Comfort of Christ.

Today we move from 1 Corinthians to 2 Corinthians. If you are newer to this blog, you may not have realized that we are focusing on our union with Christ but we are also working through Paul’s letters chronologically: Galatians, 1 Corinthians, and now 2 Corinthians.

As you know from 1 Corinthians, the church at Corinth was quite troubled. Paul has been writing back and forth with this church over several years. In fact 1 Corinthians was Paul’s second letter to the church, and 2 Corinthians is Paul’s fourth letter to the church (we no longer have letters 1 and 3). 2 Corinthians is a deeply personal letter from Paul. He is exhausted and has been through many physical and emotional trials. This is a letter written primarily from sorrow. The church has turned a corner though, and has been receptive to his loving exhortations. 2 Corinthians offers us one of the most gutsy letters in the New Testament, and an intimate look into what it means to suffer while being in Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

Paul is going to teach us to see the whole world through the lens of Christ’s suffering. The gospel is the good news of the suffering of Christ. He suffered. He died. He was buried. Then he was raised. We are left to carry that same suffering of his death and the same comfort of his resurrection with us in this life. If you signed up for Christianity but want a religion that will remove your suffering immediately,  you’ve signed up for the wrong one. To be in Christ is a call to suffering.

But the gospel is also a call to comfort. The word that Paul keeps using over and over, comfort, is the Greek word paraklesis. This word means to encourage, to come alongside, and to be a friend. Jesus called the Holy Spirit the other paraklete back in John’s gospel. Jesus was the first paraklete to the disciples. The Holy Spirit came as their new paraklete. And now we who are in Christ parakaleo each other. That is, we sit with one another, speak words of encouragement, help bring change to a situation, give hope, direction and insight, and let them know that we believe in them because we believe in the Christ that lives in them. In other words, we’re a friend like Jesus.

“To live is Christ” is the co-mingled life of both sorrow and comfort. To be in Christ is to receive the comfort of Christ. To have Christ in us is to give the comfort of Christ to others. Christ’s life is now our life. We live as he lived. He too received comfort from the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He too gave mercy and comfort to his disciples when he gave us his own indwelling life through the Spirit, the Paraklete.

Have you experienced the sufferings of Christ? Have you experienced the comfort of Christ? Have you allowed the Spirit to use you to comfort others? How can meditating upon your union with Christ bring you comfort today?

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