Discipleship in Christ:Suffering

We are called to suffer yet, we in our humanity we state that when a person is experiencing suffering it is because of their lack of faith, or some great sin that they have committed. We tend to look at each other through the lens of human reasoning rather than through the centrality of Christ.” The cross is not the terrible end of a pious, happy life. Instead, it stands at the beginning of community with Jesus Christ.” [1] Interesting isn’t it? The Lord said to his disciples,” Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26 New International Version NIV).[2]

It was not a figurative cross. Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated, “The call to follow Jesus, baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, is death and life. The call of Christ and baptism leads Christians into a daily struggle against sin and Satan. Thus, each day, with its temptations by the flesh and the world, brings Jesus Christ’s suffering anew to his disciples.”[3]  We must expect suffering it is part of our calling.  Bonhoeffer stated, “Self-denial means knowing only Christ, no longer knowing oneself. It means no longer seeing oneself, only him who is going ahead, no longer seeing the way which is too difficult for us. Self-denial says only: he is going ahead; hold fast to him.”[4]

People are experiencing turmoil, persecution, death, and sundry other trials today.  The news media are not reporting it all.  It is not the type of sensationalistic reporting that they want the world to know about.  However, we are not all called to be martyrs for The Kingdom of God. Bonhoeffer reiterated, “But because Christ has suffered for the sin of the world, because the whole burden of guilt fell on him.”[5]  We do not have to carry our sins with us as our cross. Each person has his own cross to bear as well as burdens. However, every Christian bears the burden of the sins of each other.  Bonhoeffer declared, “A Christian becomes a burden-bearer—bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). As Christ bears our burdens, so we are to bear the burden of our sisters and brothers. The law of Christ, which must be fulfilled, is to bear the cross. The burden of a sister or brother, which I have to bear, is not only his or her external fate, manner, and temperament; rather, it is in the deepest sense his or her sin. I cannot bear it except by forgiving it, by the power of Christ’s cross, which I have come to share. In this way Jesus’ call to bear the cross places all who follow him in the community of forgiveness of sins.” [6] So, in our suffering we develop the ability to apply forgiveness and bear each other’s burdens.  An unforgiving spirit is a spirit that is devoid of the suffering and love of Jesus Christ. See The Lord’s Prayer to comprehend the brevity of this attitude. Bonhoeffer points out that, ‘Those who do not want to take up their cross, who do not want to give their lives in suffering and being rejected by people, lose their community with Christ.” [7]. He Continues, “Bearing the cross does not bring misery and despair. Rather, it provides refreshment and peace for our souls; it is our greatest joy. Here we are no longer laden with self-made laws and burdens, but with the yoke of him who knows us and who himself goes with us under the same yoke. Under his yoke we are assured of his nearness and communion. It is he himself whom disciples find when they take up their cross.”[8]

The next time someone states take up your cross.  Remember that it is not a flippant admonishment.  They are simply reiterating what the Lord stated to his disciples.  To be a true disciple of Jesus Christ we must be willing to suffer as he did and to take up our individual cross whatever that cross may be.  We must also be willing to bear each other’s burdens, and apply the act of forgiveness for the sins committed against each other.

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol. 4,  (Minneapolis: Fortress Press,

2003), 85.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the New International Version (Grand

Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009).

[3] Ibid., 86.

[4] Ibid., 86

[5] Ibid., 88.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

{8} Ibid., 91.

Works Cited

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works. Vol. 4. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Bueller
    Oct 28, 2014 @ 16:02:54

    A very interesting and expletive reading. We all say we are Christians, but very few ever say they are a disciple of Christ. Most may not know the meaning which is explained quite extensively by your post. I also think saying you are a disciple of Christ puts you on a whole new level with your fellow brethren. They understand being a Christian, however they don’t understand being a disciple and think the two are interchangeable.


  2. Joyce
    Oct 28, 2014 @ 20:59:14

    And to be truth Bueller they are not. Thanks for reading this and posting.


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