There are those who merely listen ‘cuz they think they cannot sing / There are those who join the music, they become free / If your story doesn’t wind up ending happy after all / There’s a grace that’s there, it’s everywhere, and it’s equal to the fall
- Satellite Soul, Equal To The Fall, from the 1997 self-titled debut album
I feel led to pause in the middle of Matthew chapter ten, before moving on, to really underscore a particular point about suffering hardship for the Christ. In verses 16-42 Jesus readies the Twelve for persecution before He sends them out on their first mission. He tells them that this mission, and all subsequent missions, may be very difficult. He starts by saying “I am sending you out as sheep among wolves” (v.16) – yikes! There is literally very little more vulnerable and helpless than a sheep surrounded by wolves. It means almost certain death for the sheep to be sure. He goes on to tell them that they will be flogged and threatened, and not to be afraid of those who can kill the body. He tells them that through it all they are more valuable to God than they can imagine. And then he says something that I see get misused on a regular basis nowadays.
He says “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my father in heaven” (v. 32).
For one thing, Jesus is NOT talking about sharing Facebook memes to “prove” we are Christians. He IS talking about confessing faith in Him often to our own peril. In the book of Acts we see the apostles being dragged before government officials who would decide their physical fate for publicly admitting they followed a risen Savior. Today, at least here in America, we don’t face anywhere near that kind of pressure despite what some conservative leaders and talking heads would have you believe. If I were to listen to them, I’d probably believe my entire way of life was under prosecution (which it’s not). Maybe it is in other parts of the world. I can think of how difficult it must be to follow the Christ in a Middle Eastern country where Islam is the dominant religious system. Or perhaps in communist China where religion in general is dismissed as an opiate of the masses and a follower of Christ can be imprisoned and beaten. But here in the United States? Not so much. In fact, nowhere close.
Yet to watch certain “news” stations and listen to certain religious figureheads here in the States you’d think Christians are being persecuted at every turn. It’s a joke. Why? You can still read your bible, in public, purchase said bible at a number of Christian retailers online and instore across this nation, and you can even blog about what you read about in your study time. You can even own multiple bibles. There’s no limit on how many can be present in your household or personal possession. None of that is prohibited. You can still pray in public. You can publicly attend the church of your choice once a week or several times in a week. You have days set aside for national public gatherings to pray. Religious leaders (although I question the “Christian” part of their ministry) can still publicly broadcast into your homes on the radio and on television. To beat all, pastors can speak politically from the pulpit and yet retain their tax exempt status. No one is being arrested and flogged in the streets. No one is being put on trial. No one is being executed. No one is being imprisoned. No one is being ridiculed. No one is being prevented from worshipping. No Bibles are being burned. No one is being victimized. Period.
Maybe that time is coming, here in the United States. But as far as I can tell, it’s no where close to happening any time soon. And being asked to bake a wedding cake for a same sex couple or someone else you don’t share ideology with is not a violation of your religious freedom. Your refusal to serve others IS bigotry. And it is NOT the way of grace. So what I would like to ask of my brothers and sisters in Christ is to stop acting like it is just around the corner. And stop supporting public figures (both with attention and with money) who claim it’s already an issue in society. If anything, speak out against such people. Let non-believers know that real believers don’t believe in the hype.
And if the day ever happens where being a “Christian” is truly a crime in this country, suck it up and bear the burden honorably instead of playing the victim card. That’s how grace wins and more people decide to join the music.