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Insights While Suffering

With a View to the Cross and Resurrection

Series:

Mark Slatter

From the days of the early Church Christians have forged what has seemed to be a fitting kinship between their suffering and Christ’s Passion. As a result, Christians are sometimes guided by the impression that simply believing hard enough – «Have faith!» – would somehow trickle down to change their hardship. However, having faith in God does not automatically translate into know-how or wisdom with suffering. Sadly, many of us seem to improvise by trial and error with one of life’s most formative experiences.
This book sets out to explore an ethic of suffering; that is, learning how to locate the suffering on an ethical grid and, if possible, learning how to take steps to conspire with God who always desires our healing and freedom. The first part introduces the reader to some of the main theoretical and practical difficulties of suffering and Christian life through the work of three theologians who bring complimentary perspectives to the subject. The second part expands on some of the issues they raise with chapters on the properties of suffering, questions about evil, the effects of suffering on character and growth, suffering’s social and communal dimensions, the struggle for meaning and God, and the deeper moral implications of the imitation of Christ.
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Conclusions: Having Insights While Suffering

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← 298 | 299 → CONCLUSIONS

Having Insights While Suffering

Introduction

In these conclusions I take up the topic of imitation generically and the imitation of Christ specifically, since it is by imitation’s unequivocal pedagogy that my character and the influence of others converge. Without exception we learn about becoming human within the traditions and values of society or a community, and by observing how others respond to Christ we might similarly learn to imitate him. The theme of the imitation of Christ ought to be considered a further refinement of character development and a special category for theological ethics. There are other reasons for taking up the theme of imitation.

First, religious models of inspiration are part of a larger socio-cultural phenomenon. In the chapters on character and community we discovered how we are exposed to traditions, stories, personal qualities and skills, and are able to observe—at least initially and for the most part unconsciously—how others have integrated the value ideals to which they aspire. Thomas Merton’s prolific writing is so deeply respected because he was in tune with the dynamics that shape or impede people’s yearnings for authenticity: “… we are instinctively gifted in watching how others experience themselves. We learn to live by living together with others, and by living like them…”1 The first ← 299 | 300 → and more immediate persons we imitate are our parents and siblings; later, the circle of imitable influences expands to include sports figures, conspicuous success...

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