Living the victory

  • Question from DM, United Kingdom

    I have had health difficulties for nearly 5 years and no doctor can cure me (3rd consultant still bemused). Yet sometimes I hear people say we should “Live in the victory”. Can I “live in the victory” without getting better?

    To ‘live in the victory’ is one of those Christian phrases that has become so divorced from reality that it frequently adds guilt to the suffering of believers in physical or emotional pain. Living ‘in the victory’ is best understood not as living a life without pain, but as holding onto faith despite pain and trouble.

    The victory of Christ over those things that would separate humanity from God is seen in the cross and, as I said in the community talk I gave on Revelation, when we are living the life of victory we live out the crucifixion and that is obviously not a way of avoiding suffering. Perhaps the best way for us to understand suffering is to seek to understand the cross and it’s place in time and eternity.

    Martin Luther was one of the first theologians to actively pursue a ‘theology of the cross’. He was keen to assert that God is seen in Christ and that God suffered at the crucifixion. Given that Christ suffered in his human nature and his divine nature, that means his suffering takes on an eternal dimension (hence his ‘one’ death, paying the price for many). Jurgen Moltmann, the twentieth century German theologian took this further, by saying that in his very being God has not only experienced pain and death but also experiences bereavement: the Father losing the Son to death. God therefore, in his eternal nature, somehow experiences pain, death and bereavement – the three worst aspects of mortal existence.

    Given that suffering is a hallmark of Jesus’ life, as his followers we can only reproduce authentic Christ-likeness through sharing in his suffering. However, we are ‘citizens of Heaven’ and we are told that through baptism we die to the old life and are raised to the new (see e.g. Romans chapter 6). While this happens here in this life, it seems as though we are in another ‘Kingdom of God’ situation. By that I mean we experience it now and not quite yet, just as the Kingdom is here and is coming soon. Luther, again, faced up to this problem: why do the redeemed suffer? He noted that although we were made blameless in God’s sight, we still lived in a world of sin and were essentially sinful creatures that had ‘put on’ righteousness. We would not actually be made righteous until we were remade in the likeness of Christ with resurrection bodies.

    It is therefore not hypocritical to ‘live the victory’ and feel pain. It is perhaps realistic to expect suffering as we should, as Christians, be aware that the world we live in is a fallen world full of sin and pain. Becoming a Christian is not a magic cure-all to the situations we find ourselves in. We follow a God who has chosen to reveal himself most fully in suffering and the only way to truly follow that example is to resolutely believe in the final victory of Christ over suffering, sickness and death even as we experience those things in our daily life.

    I hope that this answer helps, DM. Thank you for contributing to freelance theology.

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