The apostle is in prison, in chains, but he is still contending for the spread of the gospel and the building of the Church and yet he doesn’t hide the fact that he is suffering.
“Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” (Colossians 1 v 24)
Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian minister of the gospel would often ask people, “If suffering were offered to you as a gift, would you accept it?” During his long imprisonment in a Communist prison he was beaten and tortured including mutilation, burning and being locked in a large frozen icebox. Up until he died in 2001 his body bore the scars of physical torture.
The Apostle accepted the suffering in fact he rejoiced in it. It was meaningful to him. This was not something that he would denounce but embrace. Yet what he said in verse 24 is something that is quite shocking and not easy to understand.
Is Christ’s suffering not enough?
Why did Paul say it was lacking?
Firstly, this does not take away the sufficiency of Christ for redemption. In fact there is only one redeemer and to suggest anything else is an anathema.
In a recent conflict situation I looked around the room and wondered where the cross was, I couldn’t see it.
There is a suffering for the sake of Christ’s body, His church. That is what Paul is speaking about. It is not lacking in terms of it is not powerful enough but the Church and indeed the world need to see the cross. They need to see the embodiment of the cross in daily life. That is what Paul has been called to and what he understands.
Do people see the cross in your life?
Sickness? Disappointment? Bereavement? Pandemic restrictions? Persecution? Every situation and more can be turned into presenting the powerful suffering of the cross. Your life in these circumstances can become a piece of theatre that demonstrates Christ and the cross of redemption. In doing so the Church continue to rise.