The Greco-Roman Gods embraced values and behavior which were the antithesis of Christian conduct. By our standards they were lusty, intemperate, immoral, deceptive and capricious. In many ways they portrayed the best and the worse of human behavior. Above all, they had the ability to have fun, to immerse themselves in the pleasures of the flesh. Suffering, martyrdom and personal mortification were never a part of their agenda.
Rejecting the hedonistic excesses of the Roman world was necessary for new converts to isolate themselves from the sinful masses. I have not encountered anything in the Gospels or Epistles, nor in the Old Testament suggesting that suffering was an obligatory or important facet of early Christian practices. In fact parts of the older texts encourage levity and joy. Some of my favorite verses illustrate that:
“Eat thy bread with joy and drink thy wine with a merry heart for God now accepteth thy works”
“It is good that a man should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of his labor for that is the lot of man.”
The Psalmist stated, “Make a joyful noise unto the lord.”
When and how did pain and suffering aquire the status of a virtue in Christianity? I will speculate upon that issue in my subsequent musings.