A tongue-n-cheek jab at lovers of comfort.
Note from the Editor: Shadrach is being sarcastic here, in case you didn't notice. Also, while those who follow Christ will be persecuted, Boundless does not promote the idea that persecution signifies the degree to which one is following Christ. If, for instance, we make mooning and flipping off non-Christians a regular part of our witness, we will be persecuted more than Christians who don't. But we will also be horribly mistaken if we take this persecution as confirmation that we're being more Christ-like than our less-persecuted Christian peers. Boundless' official position on the issue: While sharing the gospel will result in some level of persecution, persecution never justifies witnessing tactics that do not reflect the character of Jesus Christ.
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Seven. The perfect number. Any list with seven items must be divinely inspired. You might want to get into the lotus position and slowly absorb the following heavenly information into your cranial lobe. Allow it to trickle down into your heart and see if it doesn't give you a bunch of warm-fuzzies. You might even get to experience the ultimate verification that this list is from God: goose bumps!
The topic, though, works against me: Persecution.
We Christians run from the P-word faster than we do the E-word (Evangelism) or the M-word (Missions). Persecution starts with "p" and so does the word "pain." I confess, over the years, I have spent more time watching movies than I have studying my Bible and, as a result, when I hear a word like "pain" I instantly think of a movie clip rather than a Scripture verse.
In "Rocky 3," a sports writer asks the muscle-bound, gold-laden, mohawk-wearing Clubber Lang what his prediction is before his big title fight with the older and smaller Rocky Balboa.
"Prediction?" Lang gruffly repeats back at the intimidated reporter. " ... Pain!" he says after pausing, answering the question and sinisterly forecasting the beating he is about to give the champ.
Me? I avoid pain at all costs. I run from it. I surround my life with as many comforts, conveniences, securities and insurances as I possibly can. If pain or persecution even hint at coming my way, I instantly and desperately find a way to slither out and escape. The Christian life is supposed to be easy, soft, smooth — all these are signs that you've really been blessed by God, right? When problems, pain, and persecution come your way, they must be punishments from God. But then my theological bubble bursts when I read a verse like 2 Timothy 3:12, where Paul says,
"Indeed, all who desire to live godly lives in Christ Jesus WILL BE persecuted" (emphasis mine).
How can this be? You're trying to tell me that if I'm not experiencing any persecution, it may be because I'm not desiring to live a godly life in Christ? I resent that! I know that verse sounds like a promise, but surely we could find some "scholar" somewhere to vouch for us that this passage was miscopied by a farsighted 3rd century scribe. If not, I'm going to pronounce myself a "scholar" and create my own website: www.LoopHolesForChrist.com. Who else is going to be able to objectively distinguish fact from fiction in this antiquated book we call the Bible?
I'm like one of the self-revered 1st century Gnostics — holy men who possessed a "secret knowledge" that gave them salvation and the inside track to God and His ways. You too can experience superior intelligence and existential vibrations if you will only join my exclusive "Gnostic Junior" club and follow these seven simple but profound secrets. But don't write them down anywhere. Just memorize and utilize.
1. Choose tolerance over truth.
My professor says the key to worldwide unity is diversity and multiculturalism. Appreciating and giving equal value to any and all beliefs is the sign of genuine maturity and love. Besides, who can really know what is true anyway? This guy must know what he's talking about. He's got a Ph.D, a 30 year tenured professorship, and a long beard. Talk about credibility!
I confess. I want everybody to like me. I came so close to winning the "Most Popular" award my senior year in High School. My strategy was to smile at everyone, call them by name, act like I was really interested in what they were saying, and agree with any point they made. Regardless of what wild, immoral, or perverse heresy they came up with my standard answer was, "Wow, that's neat!" A few of my friends said I was easily swayed and that my picture was right next to the definition of the word "gullible" in the dictionary! I haven't looked it up yet.
I know that the Voice of the Martyrs ministry and the band DC Talk wrote some leathery looking book called Jesus Freaks that describes different men and women who stood up for truth, costing them their lives. But that stuff is about other people in other lands in other times. It's old, outdated and definitely not for me. Some boring kids at school claim to know "the truth" and are taking heat for it. Me, I'm staying cool and choosing tolerance.
2. Don't ever say there's only one way to God.
I tried this once. Never again! I'd been witnessing to students at a liberal, liberal arts college with a denominational affiliation. Explaining the gospel is one thing, but I foolishly made the mistake of asking different students to receive Jesus Christ into their lives after assuring them that it was the only way to obtain eternal forgiveness. The chaplains at this small college caught wind of it and called me into their office. Boy were their veins bulging and faces red! After slamming the door and sitting down across from me, they pointed their finger at me and yelled, "You're nothing but a religious exclusionist!"
Now that didn't sound too complimentary, so I said, "What do you mean?"
"You believe there's only one way to God!" they shot back.
"Well," I started, "John 14:6 says, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me.'"
"That's your interpretation!" they angrily shouted.
"My interpretation?" I protested. "Jesus is the one who said it, not me!"
As you can imagine, I felt attacked, maligned, and absolutely archaic in my narrow little doctrines. I vowed to never get in a situation like that again and concluded that God is certainly big enough to create many paths up the mountain. Sincerity is the key, not slavery to some tightly restricted "magic formula." I wisely rethought my "only one way" philosophy in order to fit in better with the culture.
3. Never ask anyone the "golden question."
After presenting the gospel to someone, the "golden question" is the most agonizingly difficult question in the English language to utter. Even typing it out, my hands are sweating, my heart is pounding, and my throat is dry. Here goes:
"Eric, I was, uh, wondering if you, um, would want to, uh, consider ... the possibility of, um, maybe thinking about, well ... inviting Christ, uh, into your life ... as, ya' know, you're Lord and, um, your Savior ... maybe even (cough, cough) right now?"
Posing that question to someone, locking my eyes onto theirs and zipping up my lips to wait for their response is harder to do than swallowing rancid pig intestines on a reality TV show. But, at no time in that person's life will the Holy Spirit have more of an opportunity to bring "divine pressure" on them than in those few awkward seconds of silence after they've been asked the "golden question!"
The problem is, they might say "no" and I hate to be rejected. Who likes to make people feel uncomfortable? Why play Sherlock Holmes with my offensive interrogations when God can surely save them without the aid of my puny little questions?
PART 2: 7 Secrets of Avoiding Persecution »
Copyright 2004 Steve Shadrach. All rights reserved.