The fellowship of His sufferings…
Php 3:10f “…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
“In this passage we have the deepest secrets of the Apostle’s Christian experience unveiled” (Kennedy). I want to feel the heart beat of this passionate statement of Paul’s. This is the motivating statement of his life I believe. So what does he really mean by this? Of course first he speaks of his desire to know Jesus and to live in the flow of His power. But sharing his sufferings? Becoming like him in His death? There is something here missing in modern, western Christianity – AND I WANT IT!!
- “To know” – the operative verb here, to a Hebrew mind equals “to experience fully”.
- “Fellowship” = koinonia = sharing as a partner in business.
- “Sufferings” = pathema from the root pathos = a deep feeling; often used in a negative sense as a lust or evil desire. But also used for sufferings. It is in fact the “Passion of the Christ”. Jesus’ deep feelings and the motivating drives in His life (His passion in the common sense of the word) is the kernel of which his outward suffering (passion in the old meaning) is the bread.
- “Conformed to” = summorphos = to be changed to the same form as another. Comparing a synonym, this word speaks of an inner value that in its deepest essence is made true to the other model, rather than just the outer form.
So what Paul is really saying is that his life’s ambition is to share the same inner passions and visions and motivations that drove Christ to the cross on behalf of the lost and the least. He is willing to suffer and die – not just because it is a noble thing to do; not just because Jesus did it; but because he is so filled with LOVE for the world – this, not a vague concept, but real compassion for real people he has met in every town that break his heart and haunt his dreams.
Do we want to share in Christ’s sufferings? Then ask, what is it that makes Christ suffer? Is it not your lonely neighbor or the gas attendant you easily ignored with the empty look in his eye?
Do we want to be “conformed” to the same inner essence that drove Christ to suffer and die for a lost humanity? Do we want to carry on our hearts the passion that will send us out in the night for the homosexual we have been counseling? Will we gladly “die daily” – not in self-flagellation, but in practical service to the people God puts in our path every day?
We are going to Zambia in a week to live with the lowly in this earth. We want to hold the hands that are weak with AIDS. We want to love those lost in worship of ancestors. We want to find the orphan and the grandmother raising the children of her dead kids, with no income and only a prayer of survival. And we want to understand them, and become friends. We want to give our lives and our prayers and tears and laughter to them.
And I realize that we can do that with just the motivation to do something heroic, draw attention to our works, see how many churches we can start or how many orphans we can house. Or we can do it because our heart is breaking over the lost and the least. Lord, we ask you to break our hearts with what breaks yours. May we share in the fellowship of your suffering – your passion – your broken heart that “is acquainted with grief”. Conform our motivations to the very motivations that drove you to the cross on my behalf, my Friend. Amen.