“God has generously granted you the privilege, not only of believing in Christ but also of suffering for Christ’s sake.” – Philippians 1:29
It has become quite common for some American Christians to believe they are being persecuted for their faith. This has always struck me as odd. In the few moments in my relatively privileged life that I have faced any kind of persecution it has never been for my faith. Actually, even though I am a Christian, it has often been at the hands of other Christians.
And yet, in a world where some Christians are no longer allowed to use their faith to dictate everything from who can get married to what songs can be sung at the public school holiday pageant, some of us have come to believe we are being persecuted.
The first century church understood real persecution. Real persecution is not a matter of no longer being able to impose your faith on others. Real persecution is about going to jail, being tortured, and losing your life. We American Christians have no idea what persecution is like, choosing instead to launch court cases and lawsuits at the drop of a hat when we are reminded that this country has a clear separation of church and state.
I often wonder, though, what would our first century forebears think of us? These were people who not only understood persecution, but who gladly suffered it. Privilege for them was not about dominance, but instead about being invited to witness to their faith by suffering for Christ.
I don’t glorify suffering, but I do believe that the first century church was on to something. In fact, most of the shining moments of our faith came in the midst of great persecution. Members of the Confessing Church that stood against Hitler, for instance, suffered gravely, often to the point of death. But, unlike many of us who have never had our faith tested, they knew who they were, and Whose they were, and they still rejoiced and found strength.
I do not wish persecution and suffering on the church. But I think that maybe, just maybe, there may be some spiritual benefit to getting a little more uncomfortable.
Dear God, call me out of my complacency and safety, and into the privilege of standing with you. Amen.