A Pastoral Letter on Cross-bearing -- By: Thomas N. Smith
RAR 5:1 (Winter 1996) p. 45
A Pastoral Letter on Cross-bearing
I have followed your reports of the situation in the church with the greatest interest and concern. Be assured that I have prayed for you daily and, often, many times in the day. You will also know that I have the greatest sympathy for you in this conflict. Some of your descriptions have been searing, and not a few have brought back painful memories from my own career. Only those who have undergone such things as you describe can ever, even remotely, understand the sense of personal humiliation and anxiety that come with these particular trials. I hope I can weep with those who weep.
Nevertheless, since you must not commit yourself, even for a moment, to sink into self-pity and despondency, I must quickly add to what I have already said: Rejoice!
These things have not reached you without first going through the clearinghouse of our sovereign Lord, and He has a wonderful purpose in all of them. Indeed, I may paraphrase Him as saying to the both of us: “What did you expect?” and quote Him as saying, “The servant is not above his Master. If the world hate you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.”
I remind you of these hard sayings because we are never in greater danger of forgetting or neglecting them than when we are in the state which you presently find yourself. We are never good judges of our true spiritual condition, and this is especially so when we are enduring stress and trial.
The fact is: This is what the New Testament is talking about when it speaks of bearing the Cross and suffering for the sake of Christ and His church. This can so easily escape you for a variety of reasons: You may see only the human face of your opposition and not the spiritual warfare behind it. Or, you may be deeply aware of your own sin and failings in the present conflict; indeed, the conflict may have brought these to the forefront as never before. Or, you are aware of the fact that you are meeting with opposition from Christians, even from those
RAR 5:1 (Winter 1996) p. 46
who have until now encouraged and supported you. All of these things, and many more like them, may lead you to confuse the issues at hand. If you confuse the issues, you will end in personal confusion, and the end result of this will be despair and a determination (often made with a “clear head”) to quit, not only the personal ministry, but the Christian faith as well.
All of this leads me to spend the rest of this letter talking with you about the real meaning of “bearing the Cross.”
How foolishly and inevitably we romanticize and glamorize the sayi...
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