[The English word “passion” comes from the Latin word passio, which means “suffering”. There are several Greek words that are similar to passio, including pathos (passion) and pascho (to suffer). However, I decided to go with the Greek word pathema for now because I thought that it best captured the definitions of “passion” and “suffering” together. I may need to take another look at the word pascho later on and add another section to this reflection.]
[This is a fusion of different reflections hopefully compiled into one coherent reflection about passio/pathema. I tried my best to be genuine to the timeline of experiences and revelations that I experienced in this area from Lent, to Easter, up until now.]
To begin with, I have to say that I’m pretty dull. From a previous post two weeks prior to Easter, I had written about Lent and about the theme of “denying self”: “Luke 9:23: If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Deny self. Take up cross daily. Follow. Lent sure sounds like a time to revisit the basic callings of Christ and what it means to be a Christ follower, especially the ‘deny self’ part.”
However, it was only right after Easter when I saw the next step of Luke 9: Take up my cross daily. And now that Easter has passed, we are now officially in the post-Easter portion of this year. But even still, I need to implore myself to remember Jesus. Remembering = not forgetting. Enduring through the test of time. What it doesn’t look like is this:
“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Cursed be the name of the Lord.” Or maybe this: “Since romance didn’t bud, since I am struggling financially as usual and have no savings, since I have relational tension with those around me and will soon have less ‘status’, I will bitterly fend to save myself and angrily forget God my Savior.”
Just to be safe, here are the real verses of what enduring looks like so that I’m not blaspheming or stumbling anyone:
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. ~ Job 1:21
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
~ Habakkuk 3:17-18
Short sidenote on joy and rejoicing:
I had previously misunderstood this verse:
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
I thought that this verse meant for me to be happy all the time, since being thankful is the “secret” to happiness (from the Thanksgiving messages). Also, I had misunderstood the art of rejoicing: it didn’t mean that I had to have a smile on my face all the time. There is a different kind of joy that runs deeper, the joy of salvation (Psalm 51:12) that is solid and brings peace even in the midst of turmoil or other emotions/situations of non-happiness.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. ~ John 13:34-35
How did Jesus love us? I heard it once said that really loving someone is like handing them the knife that they can stab your heart with. To love is to be vulnerable even if the other person hurts you and even if the other person ultimately rejects you. And if they do reject you, to love is to absorb the pain, forgive, and not strike back in vengeance.
For Jesus, this meant opening himself up to literally take the flogging, the mockery, the nails through his hands and feet. He was stabbed, or rather, pierced. Like a lamb, he quietly submitted to his death on a cross. This was after he resolutely set his face toward Jerusalem, where he knew that he was going to undergo this kind of violent death. This was also after he washed his disciples’ feet, an expression of humbling himself to do the lowest job possible for them at the time. He engaged his head, heart, and hands. He underwent mental, emotional, and physical suffering for us, just so that we could have a chance at reconnecting with God.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
~Isaiah 53:3-5, 7
Passio is written all over this. Passion: Suffering. This is Love.
What is love? Love is handing people the knife of which to stab my heart with, which comes along quite naturally with suffering for the sake of the gospel. Yes, I remember that kind of pain also. Just about a month before Easter or so, “People” individually decided to cut off ties with us, by chance at the same time, mainly because of “Area of Disagreement”. I felt a lot of emotions (something that I’m not normally in tune with): sadness at seeing them go, anger at their choice to get wrapped up in “Area of Disagreement”, fearful for their spiritual health, pained because they were connected to me but now were gone, and helpless because they chose to leave and I’m not in a place to convince them otherwise. I was mostly very sad because “Area of Disagreement” was an area of my life that God redeemed and I knew how much they were missing out on.
But even in all of these other swirling emotions, I still wanted to insist that everything was going to be ok. I stubbornly wanted to see the bright side of things: that at least that they were professing Christians and that maybe they could get help in other Christian groups. I wanted to bandaid my heart’s wounds with positive thinking and therefore in name reduce my heart’s wounds to a mere slightly-scratched-but-not-bleeding-heavily level, mainly because I didn’t want to admit that they each tore something out of my heart that day, esp one of them that I had personally connected with prior by shedding tears together over “Area of Disagreement”.
In my desire to protect my heart from the pain, I didn’t want to be disturbed for an extended amount of time over them. I didn’t want my heart to break and I didn’t want to care too much. Ultimately, what this meant is that I wanted to remain in a loveless state because relating to people means taking on their burdens and being willing/vulnerable to hand people the knife that they could stab my heart with. I was so averse to receiving this kind of discomfort and bruising, even scarring, against my heart.
So I definitely am sorely lacking and unused to this kind of love in my own life. But as Good Friday and Easter came and went, I do not want the remembrance of Jesus to come and go: I hope that I can continue to remember what Jesus did for us each day. I also hope that I would be willing to keep loving God and others as God loved and still loves me, even though emotional, physical, and mental sufferings will be sure to come from relationships. Christian life is not always hunky dory peachy keen… at times, like right now, it’s just tough. When it is, I need to endure and embrace suffering. I need to remember Jesus’ passio for me, the passio of a slain Lamb, and that should be more than enough.
The recent Quiet Times are encouraging and something that I’m clinging onto:
Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.
~ Psalm 62:1-2, 8
Even though I feel like my relational world with people is quaking, I will not be shaken because God is my rock and my salvation comes from him. I will trust him even now, and pour out my heart before him.
[This following reflection, aka “part 2”, was written after finding all of the verses that contain pathema in the NT Greek earlier last week:]
The verses that particularly struck me from the pathema verses are:
2 Cor 1:5-7 – for as we share abundantly in christ’s sufferings (pathemata), so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
Galations 5:24 – and those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions (pathemasin) and desires.
1 Peter 4:13 – but rejoice in so far as you share in christ’s sufferings (pathemasin), that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
I am someone who was seeking comfort in the flesh. I was seeking to just be happy, to always have reason to rejoice. I was shallowly desiring physical, emotional, mental comfort and therefore pushing away God’s call to join in his suffering and in any sort of pain. But instead of giving me what I want, God’s gave me what I needed and wanted me to join in Jesus’ passio, or pathema. This is actually the answer to what I was looking for to begin with: True comfort and rejoicing come along with suffering with God. So, ultimately I thank God for placing me in painful relational situations all around my koinonia cross: with mentors, friends, and students. (Definitely, much of this pain was self-induced and therefore I’m mainly suffering for my own sin rather than suffering for the sake of the gospel. But still, at least I am suffering because of sin and in that way I’m able to share in Jesus’ suffering.) I’m thankful that for Passion week, I was pressed to consider more deeply what my sins looked like and what they did to myself, others, and ultimately to Jesus. Ultimately, I’m thankful that God brought me to his Word and is with me as I undergo these personal kinds of “sufferings”. Though I know my suffering is not much, but for someone who can’t bear much like me, God knows that this is enough and nowadays, I’ve just been wanting to crawl into a corner and cry myself to sleep.
However, even though this time really sucks, this is my commitment before God in light of His passio/pathema: No longer will I be committed to emotional, physical, and mental comfort. No longer will I be “mindlessly happy” or in “self-pitying despair”. No, I need my attitude to be that I will struggle against sin and resist to the point of shedding blood (Heb 12:4) and I can do that only on top of the solid rock of my salvation. God gives, God takes away, whether it’s X, “status” at this church, or even appetite to eat food. God gives and God gives away, but regardless of my state, I will choose to bless God’s name and be “exhausted yet pursuing” (Judges 8:4) for years to come. I am exhausted, yet pursing to know myself and see myself for who I really am. I am exhausted, yet pursing to strike down my sins. I am exhausted, yet pursuing to be a woman after God’s heart.
God doesn’t ask me to do anything that he hasn’t gone through with himself and even now, he promises to be with me. God, I need you to continue to be with me and to give me strength. Help me to embrace your passio/pathema. My heart is yours.