Monday, March 19, 2012

Christian Suffering

Do you ever wonder about the state of American Christianity? I do, almost every time I look at Christian-slanted news. I often wonder how many American Christians have ever read the Bible. They respond to attacks against Christians and Christian emblems with anger, bitterness, sarcasm and counterattacks. The Bible gives us a different picture.
In Acts 5:17-42, Luke reports a story of persecution. Peter and John were flogged, beaten, for their faith. Their response? They were joyful! They didn't stop preaching the gospel. Knowing that gives more impact to Peter's words in his epistle: "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you" (1 Peter 4:12-14 NIV).
One of the things we need to stop saying is that "Christianity" is being attacked because someone wants crosses taken down, Ten Commandments removed, prayer taken out of school or taxpayer's dollar to pay for abortions. None of those things define Christianity which is a world-wide body of believers who have received the salvation given to them through Jesus Christ and are now following him. Christianity is not about anything outward. It is about an inward state of being redeemed. And the Bible promised that those who take up the Way would be persecuted. The biblical response to persecution? Rejoice!
When (if?) we defend the symbols of Christianity, we must be very, very careful that we do not dishonor God. Never, never, never use hatred, bitterness and sarcasm against the enemies of Christianity. Instead, use love, grace and mercy. Sometimes that will mean that you won't defend Christianity and the American people might be in danger of losing a "right." So be it. No right is worth having if defending it brings dishonor to our Lord!

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