Suffering and the Mission of God–continued

Theological and missiological Perspectives

I want to deal with the reality of persecution and suffering for Christ’s sake from theological and missiological perspectives. Since theology is an intellectual exercise, some feel that it is not related to real life, and therefore is impractical and not something a serious practitioner of ministry need bother with. There are persons to save and comfort, and to spend time theologizing is a waste of time. It was when Sunquist experienced the oppression that new Christians had to undergo in new areas of Christian mission that he was convinced that suffering is indeed a part of God’s mission to the world. “The overwhelming and sustaining image that I came away with is of the massive suffering of Christians as Christianity has developed in each new region. Suffering is very much a part of Christian experience, as well as human existence in general.”[1] 

God’s mission is revealed in the theology of the Bible. We have used the theology of the Bible to derive and teach the great doctrines of the church, and discourse on these great doctrines is in fact theological discourse. As a part of our theological discussion we should also seek to understand persecution and suffering for Christ’s sake from a missiological perspective, or how it is related to missio Dei, the mission of God because it is integral to God’s revelation of his mission in the Bible. The mission of God is the occasion for persecution and suffering, since persecution arises in response to Christians seeking to witness to their faith in a variety of circumstances and cultures, some of which are hostile and resistant.

Participating in the mission of God means we will be confronted with cultural philosophies and ideologies, some of which reject Christianity from the start. Philosophy chronicles the thinking and rational systems (or irrational systems in some cases) that move and drive cultures. It is apparent to all missionaries and missional pastors that a particular philosophy or ideology usually dominates the cultures where they are working. By understanding cultures in a profound manner allows the Holy Spirit to use our understanding to guide us with ways to evangelize and disciple most effectively within a particular culture. We will need to understand and deal with deeper issues of culture, like the core values underlining ideologies and world views. When people are converted and come to faith in Christ they will begin to deal with the core values and cultural worldview in which they are immersed and it will become evident that belief in Christ will change one’s perspective and worldview as well as one’s heart and spiritual life. This means that new believers are faced with formidable challenges, spiritually, morally, and intellectually. Christopher J. H. Wright observes:

“Those who come to faith in Christ out of a background of Greco-Roman polytheism embraced the biblical monotheistic worldview. But they still lived surrounded by all the idolatrous reality of the culture within which they were now called to live out their Christian identity. This posed daily dilemmas for them. The thoroughness of Paul’s mission practice is that he was not content merely with evangelism and church planting but was concerned to build mature communities of believers who could think biblically through the ethical issues they faced in their ambient religious culture. His pastoral and ethical guidance to his churches was thus as much a part of his missional task as his evangelistic zeal, and just as theologically grounded too.”[2]

[1] Sunquist, Ibid., xiv.

[2] Christopher J.H. Wright, The Mission of God Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative.( Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 182.

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