“We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” – 2 Corinthians 4:8-11
I just love this passage. It is beautifully crafted, from a literary perspective. But then, of course, the subject matter is not of a trivial sort and the profundity of these words is faith affirming and incredibly comforting to believers and followers of Jesus Christ.
What does it mean to be “given up to death?” We are dying to ourselves and our desires, separating ourselves from unimportant attachments that keep us from moving closer to God. We want more of Jesus and less of ourselves to live the fullest life here and now, and in eternity.
I was watching a movie about the life of St. Francis of Assisi and the actor portraying this amazing saint was shown to bear the stigmata that we know Francis did display and experience in his body. Someone asked if this is how Jesus treats His friends. I replied that, yes, it is. Because Jesus’ friends yearn to be as close to Jesus as they possibly can. And those who attain their desires may actually bear His wounds. And with those wounds, the saints will rejoice. It’s not a masochistic sort of pleasure. But a joy that they have reached this level of intimacy with the One who loves us enough to suffer and die for us.
Almost two years ago I wrote the following in an entry entitled Words. We may be yelled down, beaten down, drowned out, thrown out, but we will carry Joy within us because we know we are loved. And if our Leader was treated so terribly that He ended up betrayed by His closest friends, mocked by many fellow citizens and believers in His community, and finally made to suffer and die on an instrument of state torture and terrorism, we should not fear, but rejoice! I see it clearly now, and really for the first time. We have to be a Light and remember Who has the Victory! Jesus does. His resurrection and ascension prove that. And He is wanting us to follow Him! And so what looks like defeat in the eyes of the pitiable, misguided world, is the most amazing Victory in Heaven. Amen.
That’s kind of what Paul is saying above. I suppose I was inspired by his words that were somewhere in the crevices of my mind. But however I was inspired, I am grateful. There is no ‘easy way’ to get through this life. We were never promised that. It’s tough and it seems to have more valleys than mountain tops.
But Jesus goes before us. God is with us (Emmanuel!). And Advent is the perfect time to talk about this. Never forget it. That’s for me, too. We must cling to that truth. The One who loves us most gave the Most. Let us rejoice; let us have hope; let us love the Lord, and one another.