Suffering in the Body

The Flood by I. K. Aivazovsky

Mark 12:28–37
1 Peter 4:1–11

Apostle Peter writes, “since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude.”

As we have heard multiple times, nothing can raise a Christian higher than suffering and dying for Christ. But in this reading, the apostle also tells us that whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. Is it not true, then, that the sins of any individual man or woman, however grave, would wane in the light of His suffering? Long ago, when Noah was building his arc, the people of his time were disobedient and sinned a lot. But imagine them now, climbing higher and higher to escape the rising water, seeing the death of their children and the imminent approach of their death. Imagine their suffering as they drown in the water, their desperate grasp for their last breath of air. Is it time to judge them for their sins? Are we in a position to appraise their gravity, however much they had disobeyed? How could we judge an evil-doer who, having passed through the gates of an agonising death is now lying before us in a grave, with the calmness of his face belying the anguish of his suffering?

The Lord reached out to all these wretched souls when He descended into Hades. Now, after all of their suffering, the hope that they would hear His word would have grown.

We, the living, who have not passed through the gates of death, are called to “arm ourselves with the same attitude.” Apostle Peter likens the people who died in the great flood with all who were baptised into Jesus with the baptism of water and who made the pledge of a clear conscience towards the Lord. (1 Peter 3:21). That must mean then, that what happens to us during baptism is the same that they had experienced in the waters of the flood. To make the pledge of a clear consciousness towards God, then, is the same as dying – dying for the world. Christians do not live their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. But those who live the lives of Pagans are surprised; they gaze at us with astonishment, as if we were dead. “They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you,” writes the apostle.

What we achieved voluntarily, in baptism, others achieved involuntarily, in the furnace of affliction. Does that mean then that all people are destined for salvation in one way or the other? If it were true, it would have made more sense for the apostles to step back, rather than go around and preach to us. Yet we still hear their teachings, they still call on us to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength.

The end of all things is near. The last temptations detailed in the Book of Revelation are around the corner. But do not lay your hopes blindly on the salvific wisdom of God. Be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Yet some were still pushing down the weak into the water as they were climbing upwards to escape drowning. Likewise, one of the criminals who hung next to Christ was hurling insults at Him (Luke 23:39). As we read in the Book of Revelation (9:20 – 21), The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands. «Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.»

But even if they had repented, it would have been far better to repent through love and by their free will, not through pain and torment sent to them. Repenting freely in love is more compatible with human dignity.

Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds

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