In another thread Terry commented:
owhere is the idea of vicarious suffering so clearly expressed as in (the probably post-Pauline) Colossians 1:24:
I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.
Although the logical connection is far less obvious, one can't help notice a similar difference of requirement in the Synoptic Gospels: the disciples have to forsake everything to follow Jesus, while nothing is required from the multitude that Jesus feeds and heals -- except kindness and respect to the disciples -- even handing them a cup of water would bring everlasting reward.
I guess I'm reading it an entirely different way.
I read it as Paul chiding and making himself out to be THE WAY others should go/appreciate--but do not YET go or appreciate.
Paul is always beating his breast and saying, "Look at me..look at me..look at me..." as a kind of substitute Christ.
He wants to be respected, followed and listened to because he is suffering.....oh is he suffering... while others party.
That is the feeling I get. Paul is Mr.Martyr whom nobody seems to appreciate.
All the letters from Paul are him whining, "Why can't you appreciate how important I AM?"
Paul is always in a snit. He is jealous, angry and ranting that other christians seem to have more gravitas and an easier life.
Paul annoys me more than anything. But, I'm not really reading two or more classes of Christians per se into his writings. However, I could be wrong.
I'm not sure we really disagree here.
Don't believe "saints" and "martyrs" too easily when they say they want everybody to be like them. They don't mean it most of the times. Standing out -- and mildly complaining about it -- is part of the game.
I find the psychological and (in the broad sense) political motivations of Paul's very original theology fascinating. The greatest ideas of the history of mankind can come from sick minds and sordid situations. That doesn't make the ideas less interesting. To the contrary imo.
For instance, the Pauline notion of "justification by faith alone" can be, to a large extent, "explained" by Paul's own psychological plight in dealing with the law (cf. Romans 7) and the political necessity to justify "his" Gentile "law-less" churches and ministry in the face of Jewish-Christian criticism (cf. Galatians). The intellectual solution to this not-so-remarkable situation is genial nonetheless.
Similarly, the mystical "economy" of sufferings I tried to point out clearly serves pretty trivial purposes. The "self-sacrificing" missionaries need less self-sacrificing sympathisers (especially the wealthy Christian patrons in the upper-middle class of the Graeco-Roman society) to back them up. Those are not meant to forsake everything and become missionaries -- that would be economically disastrous. Support and appreciation will do. The "vicarious suffering" notion makes that possible. It is a great idea nonetheless.