by: BARNELL HERRON
Model after Christ’s Sacrificial Life The sense of identification with Christ’s suffering is demonstrated by the fact that Psalm 69:9 is evidently used to refer to Jesus’ suffering, and that he suffered as a righteous person. A close look at Psalm 69 and the Gospels will make this clear. References to Psalm 69 are found in all four Gospels – in passages that speak of Christ’s suffering on the cross (Mt 27:34; Mk 15:23; Lk 23:36; Jn 19:29). Even though the psalmist is not sinless (Ps 69:5), the overall message of the Psalm seems to be that she/he is suffering despite her/his righteousness. In Jewish literature the term ‘insult’ (o ˒ νειδισµóς) often refers to the undeserved scorn received by righteous sufferers – that is, people such as Jeremiah and Tobit who endured suffering and injustice despite their obedience and faithfulness to God (e.g. Jer 15:15; 20:8; Tob 3:6, 13, 15). In both Matthew and Mark Jesus is also said to have endured insults at his crucifixion, and that those who receive insults as a result of following him will be blessed (Mt 5:11; 27:44; Mk 15:32). In light of these observations, it is very likely that, by way of Psalm 69:9, Paul applies the Jewish notion of ‘righteous sufferer’ to Jesus and the Christian community. That is, the followers of Jesus are to faithfully identify with his suffering and self-giving love, just as he suffered on the cross because of his love for them. By modelling after Jesus’ way of life, the Christ-community in Rome are not only to accept one another (in view of their inter-group conflict in 14:1–23), they are also to love one another with mutual affection, outdo each other in showing honour (including honouring the poor and despised), and associate with the lowly (12:10, 16). In addition, by modelling after Jesus’ faithful endurance in the face of suffering, they learn to be patient in affliction and joyful in hope (12:12). From the vantage point of Paul’s audience – who is familiar with socioeconomic, religious, political and racial oppression – practising love and solidarity in the face of hardship is ultimately about modelling after Christ’s suffering and his way of life.40 In other words, the call for Christians to practise love and mutuality is based on the call to model our lives after Christ’s way of life. In fact, this notion has already been explicitly expressed in Romans 8:17, which says that they who are co-heirs with Christ are to share in his suffering, so that they may be glorified with him. There should be no doubt that Christ’s sacrificial life is the life pattern that Christians should follow.
Siu Fung Wu Research Officer, Christian Resources and Care, World Vision Australia