Devotional thought of the day:
16 “And when you fast, do not put on a sad face as the hypocrites do. They neglect their appearance so that everyone will see that they are fasting. I assure you, they have already been paid in full. 17 When you go without food, wash your face and comb your hair, 18 so that others cannot know that you are fasting—only your Father, who is unseen, will know. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you. Matthew 6:16-18 (TEV)
3 The people ask, “Why should we fast if the LORD never notices? Why should we go without food if he pays no attention?” The LORD says to them, “The truth is that at the same time you fast, you pursue your own interests and oppress your workers. 4 Your fasting makes you violent, and you quarrel and fight. Do you think this kind of fasting will make me listen to your prayers? 5 When you fast, you make yourselves suffer; you bow your heads low like a blade of grass and spread out sackcloth and ashes to lie on. Is that what you call fasting? Do you think I will be pleased with that? Isaiah 58:3-5 (TEV)
765 Renew in your own soul the resolution that friend of ours made long ago: “Lord, what I want is suffering, not exhibitionism.” (1)
There is a trend that is growing more and more. The idea that those who are “persecuted” should be publicly defended, Sometimes that call for action is taken by the very people under persecution. Other times people attach themselves to the cause, urging others to join them. It is almost like people want other Christians to suffer, a sort of Christian version of Munchausen by Proxy, or even a Svengali syndrome. And sometimes, we can even bring it on ourselves, a masochistic attempt to gain fame or at least attention.
An example, the person who gets fired for using their position of authority to “spread the gospel”. Or the Christian who boasts of losing family and friends because of the Biblical position against adultery, or abortion, or homosexulaity.
Even the temptation of pointing our how richer, how much fun, how much sex we could have, how much better life would be, if we didn’t sacrifice our desires out of obedience or submission to Christ.
Jesus addresses that pretty clear in the New Testament. If you are voluntarily suffering, and it is because of your faith, then don’t let it show. If you are embracing that pain (ar some annoying stuff) then don’t make a public spectacle of it. we could project that out to those who want to make a Christian cause out of everything, because then they can be the hero.
All of this public suffering borders on exhibitionism, We (or the person/cause) we’ve hooked up with gains us acclaim, or pity, it projects a value or praise onto our life. We pursue, as Isaiah writes, our own interests, our own satisfaction? Our own recognition by others who declare us, “holy”.
Yet what if we endured it, sought true martyrdom even death, without a sense of need of people even knowing? What if our cause that never appeared in daylight was sacrificing time and money to help others out of poverty. What if our desire was not to hear man’s applause, but to hear God welcome us home? Our suffering should be God pleasing, whether a real form of martyrdom, or the self-sacrificial acts we embrace, loving others?
Can we empty ourselves, in this way? Even as Christ did?
I think we can do better at it, simply by looking to Christ, adoring Him, cherishing His work. Let me rephrase that – as we do those things, we are being transformed by the Holy Spirit! Then those crosses and burdens we bear? They don’t seem worth complaining about, or receiving praise for, simply because knowing Christ in those moments far supersedes any praise or attention gained in other places.
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2755-2756). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.