This may be the most controversial blog I ever write. Then again, maybe not. I had two other topics in mind most of the week, but recent events brought my thoughts of the last few months to a head. I knew I could not write on something less important.
They Persecuted Me
When did we start thinking that we deserve better than Jesus? He was persecuted. And he was quite clear: the world will treat you how it treated me.
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.John 15:18-21 (Emphasis added to verse 20)
Jesus didn’t buy a house and settle down with his high school sweetheart and have 2.5 kids. He had no home and went around telling people about God. He associated with the scum – the no goods. There was no retirement account or even a guaranteed paycheck. His hometown rejected him. People either got mad or got saved. A mob attempted to stone him before a mob eventually demanded his death.
The disciples were scattered. Most were martyred. The global Church has always been persecuted. Momentary peace is the exception, not the rule.
Heaven on Earth
There are many beauties of American democracy – among them, “freedom of religion.” Some of the founders fled here to escape religious persecution and created a safe bubble to practice their faith. It’s almost as if they were creating a little piece of heaven here on earth. That bubble, like any bubble in real life, can only be temporary. Christians will always eventually face push back. We cannot have heaven here, else why would we need the real heaven?
Cyril of Alexandria (considered one of the Church Fathers) points out that Christ had the power to prevent his own persecution, but he endured it. He links John 15: 20 with 2 Timothy 2:12, envisioning Christ saying that following in Christ’s footsteps means “You’re going to have to momentarily endure aversion of those who hate you without being overly troubled by the ingratitude of those whom you benefit. This is how you attain my glory, for those who suffer with me shall also reign with me.” (See Commentary on the Gospel of John 10.2)
Our home is not here. Our sanctuary isn’t here. We cannot have heaven on earth.
What Do I Deserve
We are so comfortable that we have begun to think that comfort is part of Christianity when everything the Bible tells us is the opposite.
We are not entitled to:
– be safe
– be free from persecution
– be in the political majority
– have laws that protect our religion (make it easy/comfortable to be a Christian)
– be free from punishment or discrimination for speaking out for Christ
– be liked by everyone
– be spoken of highly by others
– never go through hard times
The irony of me writing the list above as I sit wearing a sherpa and ridiculously fuzzy house slippers with my iPhone beside me in my warm home with my children sleeping safe and sound in their beds while my refrigerator is full of food is not lost on me. I get it. I do not know real persecution. Have I read about it? Have I wept while praying for missionaries I love and support that KNOW real persecution? Yes. But I have never been beaten for sharing my faith, had medical treatment refused because I was a Christian, or worried that my children might be taken from me by the religion in power.
No I have never experienced persecution, but I refuse to think I am somehow so special that I am entitled to avoid it.
In my favorite passage from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, Susan asks regarding Aslan “Is he-quite safe? and Mr. Beaver responds”Safe?… Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.” It made chills run down my spine the first time a read it and every time after that.
God never promised us safety or happiness, but he did promise rest (Matthew 11:28). He never said we would be popular, but he loved us enough that his only son died a torturous death to save us from the penalty of our sins. He will not give us Heaven on earth, but we can be with him for eternity. The trade-offs seem worthy and worthwhile, do they not?
He isn’t safe.
You won’t be safe.
He is good.
Good is better than safe.