"Suffering" is not a very popular word in the vernacular of contemporary American Christianity. Oh sure, we talk about 'suffering' and 'persecution' from time-to-time, even in our own cultural context, but can be we honest for a minute and admit that such things have really no part our American Christian experience? Seriously, being made fun of or mocked for your faith isn't suffering. Not even close.
But Jesus talked about suffering for our faith...a lot. Deep down inside, we hate that. Persecution is something that happens 'over there,' but not in America. We talk blithely about 'bearing our crosses' as something unfortunate or undesirable.
It's almost like, dare I say it, we are doing something wrong to be able so free and open about our faith without any negative response from the culture around us!
Have we ever sat down and seriously discussed why this might be the case? Is it because of Evangelicalism's torrid love affair with conservative politics? Is it because America is somehow specially-favored by God? Is it because of (fill in the blank)?
We could propose dozens of questions and probably find a reason to make ourselves feel smug and self-righteous in the end, but let me propose a reason that will likely make us uncomfortable:
American Christianity is so accepted and so wrongly thought of as influential precisely because American Christians are so completely indistinguishable from their non-believing peers. In all the radical, culture-challenging, theologically-significant ways described by Jesus and the rest of the bible, we are basically the same as everybody else around us.
A Christianity that no longer took discipleship seriously, that made of the gospel only a cheap consolation of faith and for which, otherwise, natural and Christian existence were indistinguishably mixed, would have to understand the cross as daily misfortune, as the urgency and anxiety of our natural life...To be cast out in suffering, to be despised and abandoned by people, as is the unending lament of the psalmist (Ps 69.7-8), the essential mark of the suffering of the cross can no longer be comprehended by a Christianity that does not know how to distinguish ordinary and Christian existence.
-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The cross means suffering along with Christ.