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Austerities and suffering

Discussion in 'Exploring Christianity' started by Tellyontellyon, Oct 13, 2021.

  1. Tellyontellyon

    Tellyontellyon Active Member

    United Kingdom
    It seems to be a part of Christianity that there is a degree of austerity. Some Christians fast, they may give things up for Lent. Some Christians give up personal property, money, romance. Some hurt themselves with whips out even get themselves nailed onto crosses to imitate Jesus.
    Would somebody explain the austerity and suffering for me please.
    Thank you.
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  2. Pavel Mosko

    Pavel Mosko Arch-Dude of the Apostolic Supporter

    United States
    Oriental Orthodox
    You got more austerity in Buddhism, well at least as much as Catholicism.
  3. Sketcher

    Sketcher Born Imperishable

    This can be good to do periodically to ensure that the good things that we have in life don't really have us.
    In the case of money and property, it can similarly be good to give up what you do not need so that others may be helped.

    In the case of romance, there are certain relationships that are forbidden. What I practice and advise people to do is to not get into relationships that they would have to repent of later. The earlier you catch that, the less painful it is. It does mean that there will probably be fewer relationships in your life, but if those relationships were doomed anyway, I don't see it as that much of a loss. The price to pay in loneliness is equal to or less than the price paid in dysfunction, and certainly less than any discipline or punishment that God might add to it.

    In any case, we are to put Christ first, ahead of anything else in life. This includes personal property, money, status, and relationships. Even though these can be good things, following Christ must be the first thing.
    That is bizarre and I believe those who did/do that are wrong to do so.
  4. Carl Emerson

    Carl Emerson Well-Known Member

    New Zealand
    If you are shopping around for a more comfortable religion - Christianity is not such a good choice.

    If you are looking for Truth then that is a different story altogether...
  5. com7fy8

    com7fy8 Well-Known Member Supporter

    United States
    Ephesians 5:2 says >

    "And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma." (Ephesians 5:2)

    So, imitation of Jesus does not come only with outward suffering of the body!

    But we do well to become loving the way Jesus on the cross was loving us, suffering and dying like that, in order to save us and so we may share with Him as family in His love. So, with this loving comes not only imitation, but family intimacy :pray::groupray::hug:
  6. Aussie Pete

    Aussie Pete Well-Known Member Supporter

    Some people take it too far. Flagellation and allowing physical torture to your own body is crazy. Lord Jesus suffered and died so that we would be free from the penalty and power of sin. He died and rose again so that we might live. In a way it insults the Lord, as if to say that what He went through is not enough.

    What God seeks is people who will give up everything, including, most importantly, their independent self lives. God not a cosmic spoilsport, seeking to ruin everyone's life. Far from it. Whatever we have to give up for God's kingdom will be rewarded. For example, the Lord told me to give up playing table tennis. I was not very good, but I was improving as I put more effort into practice and getting fit. It started to take over my life. When I quit, I had much more time for far more important things in my life.
    I learned to give. Money, things, time, even relationships. God has given me what He wanted for me, which was far better than I could imagine for myself. Those times when I ignored God's ways (way too often) I came to regret my bad choices. I'm 70, free of debt, some money in the bank and better off than I've ever been. God has granted me a change of heart over many issues. I'm glad that He has. God loves us. He is the true Giver. If we will become empty, it gives God the opportunity to fill us. It's the only way to live!
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  7. dqhall

    dqhall Well-Known Member Supporter

    United States
    You might ask a poor person what austerity and suffering are.

    It may be better for one to work as a carpenter and have a car and a roof over one’s head, than to remain idle and beg for a bowl of rice and beans.
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2021
  8. Tellyontellyon

    Tellyontellyon Active Member

    United Kingdom
    I'm curious about the Christian reasons for it, I'm not here to compare or shop around... I know why Buddhists do it, I'm curious about Christianity.
    Thank you.
  9. ViaCrucis

    ViaCrucis Evangelical Catholic of the Augsburg Confession

    United States
    In Relationship
    Self harm and inflicting intentional pain upon the body is contrary to historic, traditional Christian ascetic practice. Self-flagellation and self-crucifixion are abhorrent practices.

    Mortification of the flesh is not about harming the body, it is not about self-harm; it is about drowning the old man in repentance. That language of "drowning the old man" is a common one in the Lutheran tradition, it explicitly calls to mind our baptism; that at the moment of our baptism the old man died, and the new man was raised up.

    The old man--the sinful, fallen, broken, mortal, humanity which we inherited from Adam.
    The new man--the new, transformed, healed, immortal humanity of Jesus Christ, the "Second Adam".

    The Christian life is one of paradox, we are simul iustus et peccator; "both saint and sinner". The old Adam though dead continues to cling to us. The reason we preach the Law is to continue to crucify the old man, that the old man remains charged with condemnation by the Law; even as the new man is free from the condemnation of the Law, and has been made alive by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the image of Christ, and is free in the freedom of Christ and the Gospel.

    This struggle between the old man and the new man is presented in its clearest sense in Romans chapter 7, where the Apostle St. Paul speaks of his own struggle between the old self enslaved to sin; and the new self in Christ. He continues into Romans chapter 8 with the bold declaration that all who are in Christ are no longer condemned; the condemnation of the Law against the old Adam is not our destruction, because we have a new life that is found in Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit--and the new man, who lives by faith, has the promises and the hope of God in Jesus. So that we are children and heirs of God, with Christ, and even as Christ was raised up in the body, so shall we be raised up in the body (Romans 8:11).

    The Lutheran tradition is far more cautious about ascetic practice than Catholicism, in part because in the late medieval and transition into the early modern period there were some pretty extreme ascetics--the Flagellants for example were groups of Christians who took to traveling around literally whipping themselves. This practice was by and large officially condemned by Church authorities; but one of the major problems of late medieval Catholicism was the huge disconnect between official Church teaching and practice and lay belief and practice. That is, the laity were largely ignorant, and this was often because even the clergy were ignorant. For Luther this was a horrible and extremely tragic situation, he realized that what the average Christian was receiving in the Church wasn't the Gospel, but a religious cocktail of fear. Luther wasn't alone in this, there were many in the Western (Catholic) Church who realized that serious reform was necessary.

    Thus Luther, and the other Lutheran fathers, wanted to emphasize Christian freedom. So practices such as fasting were retained, such as on traditional fast days and seasons like Lent; but to what degree the individual participates in fasting became a matter of individual choice and discretion. Ascetic practice was downplayed in large part because the ascetic practices of the late middle ages had come to be seen as ways of getting closer to God, of becoming more holy or spiritual. People were joining monasteries out of a belief that being a monastic provided a better chance of salvation. This was also why Luther targeted monasticism so sharply and critically.

    There are good reasons for ascetic practices, such as fasting. For example fasting historically was accompanied by giving of alms for the poor. The historic fasting practices of abstaining from certain kinds of foods (meat, dairy, eggs) during Lent was in part a way of recognizing certain luxurious foods (at the time) that were unavailable to most poor people. Simple, easily accessible foods such as fish and bread were allowed during great fasts because these were the cheaper, poorer foods. And so times of fasting provide us times of reflection--to help cultivate prayer, and a penitential attitude, and focus our energies and attention on the least of these in our midst.

    Lutherans continue to observe Lent, and observe Lent seriously--but much less focus is placed on ascetical rigor; and more focus is placed on Lent as a season of sober reflection and repentance. Hence the beginning of Lent--Ash Wednesday--is still very much part of Lutheran practice. We are dust, and to dust we shall return. This life is not a gift to be squandered selfishly on sin and self; but a gift to be lived fully in love toward our fellow man. This penitential season affords us the time and opportunity to take our own mortality seriously. Lent is leading somewhere as well, it is leading us to Holy Week, of Christ's final week, the week of His Passion, the week that ends with Christ crucified, dead, and buried. We are dust, and to dust we shall return: However! Easter Sunday Christ was raised from the dead, conquering death by death, and granting life to all who are in the grave. That is the Hallelujah of Easter. Death is not the end, God did not let Jesus see decay, Jesus Christ is not dust, but alive in the flesh, raised up, ascended, and exalted at the right hand of the Father (Acts of the Apostles 2:24-36), and this same Jesus will return, and the dead shall be raised.

    Lent, therefore, is not a morbid obsession with our mortality; but rather the prelude to the full and abundant life found in Easter.

    The old man must die; and the new man must live.
    The old Adam must be buried, the new Adam in Christ is raised up.

  10. Lukaris

    Lukaris Orthodox Christian Supporter

    United States
    Eastern Orthodox
    I believe much of this is realization of the suffering in the world around us and trying to do our part to help. The most basic & important ways are to give alms ( money, charitable deeds etc.) & pray for ourselves & others ( the Lords Prayer ) per Matthew 6:1-15. This is much of our “reasonable service” ( KJV) St. Paul refers to in Romans 12:1-3 ( per KJV: Bible Gateway passage: Romans 12:1-3 - King James Version
  11. James_Lai

    James_Lai Member

    My impression that austerity in Christianity is to tame the flesh, which is considered the seat of sin passed down to all from Adam and Eve. The idea is to diminish, to starve, to rid it of pleasures and comfort. Some monks would live off of bread and water, wear clothes from hard fabric, sleep on stone bed and fewer hours, do hard physical work, pray kneeling for hours on end, walking long distances preaching about God etc. The idea was not do it once a year like cross-nailing, or every now and then, but regularly day after day, year after year as an ascetic lifestyle, not occasional or periodic exercise