Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Burdens of Sin and Suffering

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It's been a while since I've had some regular time to write over the summer, but now that things are back to full swing with school I'm hoping to get back into it. In the past couple months I've been following German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, starting with his biography from Eric Metaxas and recently his well-known book The Cost of Discipleship. Since starting his biography, I have become fascinated with him and enthralled with how he lived out his faith at the center of the Nazi Third Reich, easily the most atrocious time in history. He was a brilliant thinker but he also sought fervently to understand and apply what his mind came to understand.

In Discipleship (this is its original German title), Bonhoeffer describes how Christians are able to suffer in a very different way from anyone else. He says that the heaviest burden people carry is that of sin and its ultimate wage - death. With this looming destiny and the ongoing guilt of violating God's holiness, we are weighed down and suffer in the deepest sense possible, though we may not even be aware of it. When we repent of our sins and believe in Jesus, however, something incredible happens. Jesus absorbs that massive burden, of which nothing else can compare, and exchanges it with His righteousness. Now instead of carrying the heavy burden of sin, we are freed from its guilt and carry His easy yoke of love, peace, and joy.

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This is the part that has been blowing my mind. Bonhoeffer explains that no harm or difficulty we may face in life can ever compare to the pain of the guilt and punishment of sin. This means that because of what Christ has done for us on the cross, He has enabled us to endure suffering because we do so without our heavy burden and with the power of the Holy Spirit strengthening us! Any tribulation, oppression, or hardship can be overcome because we have been cured of the deadly disease of sin - these other difficulties are like the common cold in comparison.

Please don't hear me saying that challenges in life are easy. That's not what I'm saying. What I am saying is that if we really understood the weight of our sin and the glory of Christ who has removed it from us, we would be able to experience life in a completely different way - one that lives upon His "easy yoke" and "light burden" (Matthew 11:30).

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As I've been thinking about it this week, I've come to see my challenges in a new light. When others ridicule me for my faith, I remember that I am righteous before God only because of Jesus and realize they may not be; they may still be enslaved under the yoke of sin and needing my compassion. Without my sin, this is a much easier task! Or when some financial trouble arises, I think about the great debt that Christ paid for me and remember that I am an heir in His Kingdom. I know I am but an exile in this life, a pilgrim journeying toward my true home where crowns and treasures await me.

I've comprehended before what it meant for my sin to be paid for by God, but Bonhoeffer's perspective on it opened up a whole new world of understanding and application. Thanks be to God for Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and even more for Jesus who is the worthy cause of Dietrich's suffering!

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