I am faced with a dilemma. How am I to face suffering when my life and expectations are to not suffer?
Throughout our world Christians face persecution and suffering because of their relationship with Christ. We tend to view persecution as overt and physical suffering, such as a government condemning to death a Christian who converts from Islam to Christianity. We, sitting in our safe, comfortable homes, feel little conflict when a man 12,000 miles away stands firm in his faith even to the point of death. Our consciences have been so seared with the blatant lies of the world which surround us we feel nothing, or perhaps only a simple, easily ignored, minor discomfort, on hearing such a story. We have no experiences with which to relate to those facing daily the hatred of the world.
Or do we? Persecution is also subtle, as innocuous as a boss or friend demanding unethical behavior and compromise from a known Christian. We are faced with an even more subtle attitude of tolerant intolerance. We are lulled into complacency by embracing the desirable things of a world at complete odds with God. Each desire is filled with a temptation which then coerces us to compromise a known value, revealed to us by the Holy Spirit but never jammed down our throats. God asks for obedience then expects us to exercise our minds, emotions and wills to do what He wants, think as He thinks, recognize His moral truth as His standard and act in obedience. We don’t because we do not comprehend the value of suffering for righteousness’ sake.
Worldly attitudes devalue Christ’s sacrifice, the gift of suffering experienced by the persecuted and our own worth. Christ told us we were worth His deep, agonizing suffering. He told us that to follow Him we also would suffer. We grieve and mourn over sin and grieve and mourn when those who are part of the Body of Christ endure intellectual abuse, emotional oppression and physical trauma because of Christ. With Paul we can say “if one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” [1 Corinthians 12:26 ESV].
Do we not?
No one wants to face suffering but such suffering for righteousness’ sake is the fertile ground God uses to grow the Church. We are not prepared in this country, or many places, to face or stand against someone, anyone, who has something against us because we belong to God. Instead of correcting our thinking, challenging and changing the way we think, we accept the thinking of the world which encourages through a skewed philosophy biased actions and unjust decisions.
When we think and act like the world we show how insignificant is our relationship with God. He created us in His image so our thinking would conform to truth unaffected by sin and rebellion. When confronted by the philosophy of the world our spirit, counseled and directed by the Spirit who resides within, knows there is something wrong. We may not be able to articulate the wrong, or explain how it is wrong, but we know.
However, when anything we do is perceived by the world as wrong when we know it is God’s express will, bringing the world’s displeasure from our righteous actions and attitudes, do we then submit to the world and agree we are wrong? Are we not convinced of God’s will? If we do no wrong why do we allow the world to convince us otherwise?
All who are His are owned by Him. This is an unpopular position. Our words, actions and attitudes are to focus upon Him who strengthens us, directs us and who gives us grace and a peace. This confounds the world. Do we compromise His moral will and character in order to please the world? Or do we please God and face with peace and grace the hatred of the world?
Only those operating under the same standard of justice can be reconciled. We are reconciled to God because we come under His justice and righteousness not the worlds. Being judged by those in the world will bring God’s judgment upon those in the world. Those who hold to a standard bent away from God will never be able to comprehend the actions, attitudes and words of a Christian. They may be curious, though.
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. [1 Peter 3:14-16 ESV]
Live the gospel. All are called by God to obedience. And maybe those who persecute you will see Him.