Suffering and the Mission of God: A Theological and Missiological Perspective (#1 of many coming up)


Suffering for Christ is a part of the mission of God. Suffering comes as a result of persecution of those sent to share the gospel and those who have received the gospel. While human rights issues and slavery are topics held in high esteem in Western society, and the fight for human rights is a seen as very significant work and newsworthy, religious persecution (particularly Christian persecution) is not a popular subject and is not often covered by news media. Recently, however, persecution had become so blatant that even mainstream media is reporting it. While some in the Western world may deny the existence of religious persecution or refuse to acknowledge it, it is difficult for those who have seen it, however, to deny its existence.

Scott W. Sunquist, formerly the Dean of the School of Intercultural Studies and Professor of World Christianity at Fuller Theological Seminary and now

president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, in Hamilton, Massachusetts, views suffering as a necessary part of God’s mission to the world. He writes: “Among the basic concepts necessary for understanding Christian mission is “mission has a temporal reality –it participates in the suffering of God.”[1] Mission starts with God and he determines the means by which is done. He continues: “Mission is from the heart of God, in each context, and it is carried out in suffering in this world for God’s eternal glory.”[2] “It may seem strange,” remarks Sunquist, “to raise the issue of suffering.” He explains:

“In contrast to our culture…we believe that God is the one who heals and conquers death. We also see, however, that God does not heal all illnesses, and we believe that God enters into our suffering and endures our death and alienation. Suffering is inescapable as a central element in God’s redemption.”[3]

[1 Scott W. Sunquist. Understanding Christian Mission: Participation in Suffering and Glory. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic (a division of Baker Publishing Group), 201, xii.

[2 IBID.

[3] Ibid, xvi.

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