Whoever loves Christ understands the meaning of these words. Whoever is ablaze with the love of the Lord knows the power of bondage. This is why such a person prefers to be bound for Jesus instead of dwelling in the heavens. He prefers to be thrown into a dark dungeon instead of sitting on a throne at the right hand of God. If I had to choose between heaven and the chains used to tie the hands of the Apostle Paul, I would prefer the chains. If I had to choose between keeping company with God’s angels or staying next to the Apostle Paul in prison, I would prefer the prison. Why? Simply because there is nothing better for someone than to suffer hardships on account of Christ.
I do not praise St. Paul because he ascended into the third heaven and paradise (cf. 2 Cor. 12:2-4) as much as I praise him for being thrown into jail. I do not envy him because he heard words that a mortal tongue is incapable of expressing as much as I envy him for being beaten and bound. I prefer to suffer for believing in Christ than to enjoy being honored by Christ. This is how I become a disciple of the great St. Paul. In this manner, I become a disciple of Christ Himself, Who abandoned the glory of heaven and came to the earth as a humble man—in order to be glorified even more through derision, mockery, and death. Christ Himself affirmed this a short while prior to His Crucifixion when He asked His Father, “And now, O Father, glorify Me” (Jn. 17:5).
What are you saying, O Lord? Momentarily you will be apprehended. You will be beaten and spat upon. You will be crucified as a criminal amongst two thieves, and you are talking about glory? “Yes!” Christ replies to us noetically. “These constitute glory for Me, since I am enduring all this suffering for you humans, whom I love.” If, therefore, our innocent and sinless Lord believes that He is glorified more so by suffering and dying on account of love for us than enjoying His heavenly bliss amongst the angels who praise Him ceaselessly, how should we sinful and wretched people view suffering on account of love for Him Who delivered us from eternal death and granted us salvation?
All of us stand in wonder and amazement before Job’s patience and longsuffering, before his virtue, before his phenomenal confrontation with the devil, and, finally, before his victory and justification. All of us stand respectfully and deeply moved before the Apostle Paul’s patience and forbearance, before his incredible struggles to transmit the Gospel, before his hardships and deprivations, his persecutions and sorrows, his bonds and anguish, and, finally, his martyrdom for Christ. All of us stand with reverence and gratitude before the patience and longsuffering of our Lord, before His compassion and love, before His immaculate Passion and voluntary Crucifixion, which He endured for our salvation. Therefore, let us mimic God and His saints, in order to live with them eternally in the Kingdom of Heaven. Amen.
—by St. John Chrysostomos