Christ’s sufferings are lacking? ​​​​ (Colossians 1:24)

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Christ’s sufferings are lacking? ​​​​ (Colossians 1:24)



Ash Wednesday, 2019


Lenten Reflection


Christ’s sufferings​​ are lacking? ​​  ​​​​ (Colossians 1:24)


Colossians 1:24   “Now 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.”


Question: ​​ I have searched numerous authorities (concordances and commentaries, both Protestant and Catholic) and none of them directly​​ address this pesky Pauline paradigm.  They all beat around the bush. There is no question that Paul believes there is a deficiency of some kind, a shortcoming somewhere in the crucifixion-to-resurrection experience​​ that exists between Jesus and his followers.  But what is it?  You and I both know and agree that Jesus’ sacrifice was the perfect single sacrifice, one time, for all time, for all men.  But the Bible clearly says that there is something missing somewhere, something still needed somehow.  To say otherwise, one must warp Paul’s words into an alternative meaning (i.e. “I know what the Bible says, but that’s not what it means.”).  We cannot allow ourselves to fall into that trap.  The Bible means what it says.  So, here is the problem: knowing that the Bible is truth, how do we reconcile these two apparently contradictory Bible teachings, both from Paul:


Colossians 1:24:   

Now 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.”


  ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​ ​​​​ (but)


Hebrews 10:14

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.”



Is this a contradiction?  How can Jesus’ sacrifice be “perfect” and “lacking” at the same time?  Both statements are true.  How do we reconcile them without warping or diluting one or both of them?  






Answer: ​​ Jesus’ sacrifice WAS perfect but it was a perfect offer, not a perfect gift.  In order for an offer to become a gift, it must be received, accepted by the recipient.  This situation is like a deed to property.  The grantor can conceive, prepare, sign, and deliver the deed to property, but, unless it is actually accepted by the grantee it is ineffective (i.e. it does not accomplish its intended purpose which was to​​ convey title to​​ the​​ recipient/grantee). Similarly, we must make the decision to accept Jesus’ perfect offer.  If we refuse it, then the offer is ineffective in our lives (i.e. “lacking”, “deficient”).  If we accept it, then it becomes effective in our lives and we also take on the cross, joining Jesus in his sacrifice, suffering the pain and tribulation that results from toting a big ol’ heavy cross around on our shoulders. THAT is what is missing from Jesus’ perfect sacrifice and perfect offer: It’s something about US that is missing, not something about Jesus!  It is our imperfect loving​​ response to his perfect loving​​ offer that is needed to convert the perfect offer into the completed gift.   


So, if, by faith and in prayer, with confidence in God’s goodness, we accept Jesus’ gracious offer, and, as part of that acceptance, we patiently suffer difficulties visited upon us,​​ and/or share difficulties suffered by others, we then, in a real sense, join Jesus in his steps along the Via Dolorosa, sharing in his suffering, participating in his sacrifice “for the sake of his body, that is, the church”.  This is the mystical truth of which St. Paul wrote, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.”  As Christians, this is our calling: ​​ to love, which is the willed self-sacrifice for the welfare of another. ​​ 


Conversely, and in opposition to our calling, when we sin, we are, in a real sense, adding to the pain suffered by others because the source of that pain (i.e. broken relationship with God) is reinforced by our disobedience, to the detriment of his body, that is, the church. ​​ 


Admittedly, there is much about God that we do not understand.  Our ways are not God’s ways. But this much we do know:  Jesus’ offer of salvation is perfect and complete, but, we must actively accept his offer​​ and participate in​​ all it means, including​​ the​​ suffering​​ it brings,​​ in order for it to accomplish its purpose in our lives.




Ash Wednesday, 2019


“We must love them both, those whose opinions we share and those whose opinions we reject, for both have labored in the search for truth, and both have helped us in the finding of it.”  ​​ ​​​​ ​​ - Aquinas,​​ Commentary on Aristotle



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