Don’t just talk about Jesus, take up your cross and follow Him! “Offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1Peter 2:5).
Pleasure is good; pain is bad. If that is our general approach to life, we will end up being denied eternal pleasure and will have to undergo eternal pain. But I think that many of us, without really reflecting on it, go about our lives in accord with the pleasure-pain principle, at least as far as our preferences go. We prefer good experiences to bad ones; we prefer pleasant weather to unpleasant weather; we like food that tastes good and we don’t like food that tastes bad; we prefer agreeable people to disagreeable people; we like things that feel good and we don’t like things that hurt; we would rather be healthy than sick; we prefer good fortune to misfortune; we like it when things go our way, and we don’t like it when they don’t, etc, etc. This approach is “natural,” but it won’t get you into the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Gospel flies in the face of all that. Love your enemies, deny yourself, take up your cross, go where you do not wish to go (see Jn. 21:18), take your share of suffering (2Tim. 2:3), offer your body as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1), bear with others, do not please yourself (Rom. 15:1-2), accept discipline (Heb. 12:3-11), bear abuse for Christ’s sake (Heb. 13:12-14), rejoice under trial and the testing of your faith (James 1:2-3), avoid the gratification of the “flesh” in all its forms (Gal. 5:16-21), kill the earthly desires within you (Col. 3:5-10), etc. Well, no one can accuse the Scriptures of promoting the pleasure-pain principle!
It seems that many Christians don’t realize what it is that makes them distinctively Christian. It is much more than simply believing in Christ. It is consistently living a distinctive sort of life, one that does not adopt even the ordinary values (let alone the most sinful excesses) of the prevailing culture. For this we need a thorough transfiguration of our world-view and our own personal expectations of life. We have to have the attitude of him who said: “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col. 1:24), and “I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain salvation” (2Tim. 2:10), and “I will most gladly spend myself and be spent for your souls” (2Cor. 12:15). This is an important reason why the pleasure-pain principle should not be the basis of our lives: we are here to serve others, and even sacrifice ourselves for them, for the sake of their salvation. The pleasure-pain principle is radically self-centered; the Gospel of Jesus Christ is radically other-centered. Read more: Pleasure, Pain, and the Will of God by Abbot Joseph
A Heart for the Word