LENT DAY 39 - REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING
With Jesus Christ, something altogether new has entered the world, something that is deeply pleasing to God and therefore of salvific significance to us. Called "redemptive suffering," it is beautifully stated in the first letter of Peter: "If you put up with suffering for doing what is right, this is acceptable in God's eyes. It was for this that you were called, since Christ suffered for you in just this way and left you an example to have you follow in his footsteps."
What, precisely, is redemptive suffering? Well, it is not just suffering per se. Suppose you are being physically abused; suppose you are being economically and politically oppressed, and you suffer. That's just suffering, plain and simple - and there is nothing good about it. Nor is it the suffering that comes from resisting evil through violence. That has its place - as a last resort - but that is not redemptive suffering. It might be morally justified or even heroic, but it is not redemptive.
Redemptive suffering is what Jesus did on the cross: putting up with suffering for doing what is right. This is pleasing in God's eyes, precisely because it is redemptive for the world, precisely because it takes away something that God hates.
How does it work? Well, it is not tantamount to being a doormat in the presence of evil or just allowing oneself to be walked on. It always involves a clear naming of the violence or injustice or disorder. It entails speaking the truth publicly and unambiguously. And then it is being willing to suffer the effects of the injustice or violence.
What does this do? It allows the perpetrator of the injustice (and the whole world) to see what his violence has done, to really see it. And it signals that the sufferer of the injustice is living in an entirely different spiritual space.
Redemptive suffering literally redeems (i.e., buys back) the perpetrator of injustice.