The Persecuted Church and Us
One thing we have in common with our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ is our commission to make disciples.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20, NIV
What does that mean for us? For them?
We don’t live with the threat of death or torture if we share our faith, yet we are reticent. We don’t want to be laughed at or patronized. We are afraid to be considered ignorant, narrow-minded, or – GASP – intolerant.
What it boils down to is this: We don’t believe that what we have is valuable.
It’s like a cute pair of shoes we got practically free on clearance. When we got them home we weren’t quite sure they were as cute as we thought they were, and when we went out in them, we realized they were out of style. We keep them in a box under our bed, and don’t think of them much. Sometimes we remember and take them out, because we really do think they’re cute. And comfortable. We slide them on and walk around a bit, but when it’s time to leave the house, we kick them off again, unless we’re only seeing the friend who bought the same pair. They fit so well they feel like they were made for us, but sometimes it’s as if they have a mind of their own, and want to walk us away from the things we want. Then they start to pinch.
The gift of salvation is free for all, but for those who choose to accept it in hostile societies, living it out can be costly. Sharing the Gospel may have to look different than it can for us. We can tell everyone how awesome our favorite shoes are. If we appreciated the gift of salvation for how awesome it is, it would be more important than the other shoes we wear to fit in. We wouldn’t keep it hidden away in a box.
For persecuted believers, faith has true value. Most understand the cross, and the power of the resurrection in a way most of us in the Western church don’t. Not that we can’t, we just choose to be comfortable.
Counting the Cost
Claiming Christ as Savior costs us little. Attending church is safe, especially if we keep what we believe sequestered within its walls, or choose a politically correct, uber-tolerant, what-makes-you-happy-is-right Jesus. The problem is, Jesus was counter-cultural and holy, putting what was right, and therefore best, ahead of individuals’ preferences.
Society is progressively resistant to the Truth claims of Christianity. Belief that Biblical faith is intolerant breeds hostility. People don’t want to believe that the Gospel is good news because it requires admitting we’re sinners and what we think isn’t necessarily right no matter how earnestly we believe it.
Who wants to admit they’re wrong, that they’re “bad,” that they need to be saved? Doesn’t admitting we can’t save ourselves mean we must live obligated to the church and a list of boring dos and don’ts?
Yes, we’re sinners. Yes, we need a Savior. Yes, there are standards. But God’s standards, His commands, are not about limiting us, but freeing us.
Becoming a Christian isn’t about going to church; it’s about being adopted into God’s family. It’s not about following rules, but being transformed. It’s not about trying to be good, but being made holy. Does holy sound boring? It’s not. To be holy… is to be whole. Complete. To not need anything unhealthy.
It’s only in Christ we become all we were created to be.
In the Western church we live small, though we serve an infinite God. We live defeated, though our Savior defeated death. We have no excuse. The same power that raised Christ from the dead lives IN us.
How often do we sit and let that reality sink in?
How often can we honestly say we live in the Truth that the power that raised Christ from the dead lives in us?
We have access to it all the time, but how often do we use it? How often do we even remember and believe it’s real, let alone meant to be relied on? We need it to live in a way that honors God through each and every moment, not just those that overwhelm and try to break us.
God will always provide what we need to do what He calls us to do. From getting through daily tasks with an attitude of grace, to choosing to follow Christ in a hostile culture. From sharing the Gospel with a neighbor to standing for Christ in the face of suffering. It’s difficult to choose to stand and call wrong, wrong; and do so in love, with grace.
It’s not our perception of the size of the need that is key, it’s our choice to rely on and obey God.
We often kind of skim over the first of the Greatest Commandments, don’t we? It makes us a little uncomfortable because we’re not sure what it looks like to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. We forget we can’t properly obey the second, to love others, without it. Loving God allows us to really love others and want what’s best for them. What’s best for each of us is God. When we love God and others, we naturally share the Gospel, make disciples, and not only obey, but also make obedience attractive. Following the Greatest Commandments equips us to fulfill the Great Commission.
When we only love God as much as He makes us comfortable, we buy into the lies that the purpose of life is to pursue what makes us feel good and all truth sincerely believed truth claims are valid.
Living the reality of God in any culture draws attention. It’s not always attention we like, but, whether or not we see it, others’ lives are changed. Despite persecution and imperfect sharers, the Gospel made it all the way down the years from the cross to you, didn’t it? Amazing. We’re part of the most amazing story. Let’s tell it.