Does the Bible Teach Meritorious Suffering?
The following illustration has been used to convince abuse victims that the abuse they are suffering is God’s determined will for them, and they need to submit to it. Divorce is out of the question –
There was a man, who was given a cross to bear through life. As he traveled he noticed that this cross was very long and it kept getting caught on stuff. He decided to cut it down a bit and make it easier to carry. After a while, it got heavy again and he decided to cut it down some more. He did this repeatedly until it was easy enough to carry. After all, it still looked like a cross. Well the day came for him to cross over to the “other side” and he was told that he needed his cross to span the great chasm between him and eternity. He laid his cross down but found it to be too short…
In other words, stay in the abuse, suffer, and you will make it to heaven. Refuse to keep suffering and you will come up short on the day of judgment and end in hell.
There is nothing biblical about this illustration. In fact, though a professing Protestant is telling it, this is far more Roman Catholic in its theology of suffering. WE DO NOT SAVE OURSELVES BY OUR CROSS-BEARING. Jesus Christ has made full atonement for every one of His people. Following Christ in obedience, no matter how difficult, is to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. But WE do not pay a meritorious, suffering death on that cross. It is the Cross of Christ by which we are saved.
Furthermore, when Christ calls us to take up our cross, He is telling us to follow HIM. Not for the purpose of carrying out supposed meritorious deeds of suffering so that we can earn our salvation, but to follow Him in obedient faith. Every genuine Christian will most certainly do so. Not FOR salvation, but because of salvation. And we are following Him. That means that if this illustration is correct, then every abuse victim must agree that the Lord Jesus Christ is leading them into that abuse and that if they depart from it by leaving and divorcing their abuser, they must necessarily leave off following Christ.
That would require any person pushing this illustration to be a prophet. It means that they are authoritatively able to declare the Word of God to every victim of abuse – Thus saith the Lord, stay here and let this wicked man abuse you and your children.
I can only call such a person a false prophet.
See a related article by Steven Tracy’s entitled “Domestic VIolence in the CHurch and Redemptive Suffering in 1 Peter.”