Thursday, July 16, 2015

For Those Who Want Us Dead

The first time I read The Trail of Blood was when I was still a child. I remember sitting at the kitchen table as I was reading it and talking to my mother about the Christian martyrs and how they refused to deny Jesus Christ, even when facing torture or the killing of their families. She said, “We might face that someday.” At the time, my thought was, “What a great way to die!”

About thirty years have passed since that conversation and my thoughts have changed. It’s still a great way to die, to be numbered with those who have shown the world to be unworthy of them by staying true to Jesus, even unto death, and to depart this life in a way similar to the death of our dear Savior. Let’s just say that my previous experiences with pain have caused me not to look forward to a martyr’s death.

But if recent events are any indication, it is far more likely today that we will suffer or be killed because of our stand for Jesus than it was thirty years ago. Thirty years ago, you would’ve had to have left the United States to have much of a chance of dying a Christian martyr’s death. Today, you can hardly mention the name of Christ without someone accusing you of hate. In online conversations, I’ve had people curse me. I don’t mean they used profanity. One woman who didn’t like something I said, said that it was a terrible decision that my mother didn’t get an abortion.

When people begin to think that people who hold certain beliefs shouldn’t be alive, they’re already committing murder in their hearts and the next step is for them to take up a weapon to strike the fatal blow. As some have pointed out, these are people who have no hope for the future. Even though some of them attend “church,” they don’t have faith. They have no hope of eternal life, because they don’t really believe it exists or they don’t believe it is attainable for them. Their lives can be summed up with four letters, YOLO (you only live once). When your whole life if built around the belief that you have to do whatever it takes to make you feel the best you can now, because you only live once, you’re going to do everything you can to push those who make you feel bad out of the way. You don’t want people telling you that you are evil, because that makes you feel bad, so force those people to shut up. Use the Government to do it if you can, but if you can’t, then use other methods, because you only live once, right?

Contrast that with what the writer of Hebrews said about the martyrs in Hebrews 11:35 says about the martyrs of the past, by faith, “others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection.” (And this was in reference to people who had not seen the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.) What a difference the belief in the deliverance of God and the resurrection of the dead makes. People who realize that they can have life after this life have a very different perspective. If I suffer in this life, that’s okay, because this life is just the beginning. If obedience to God means I can’t enjoy the things people lust for in this life, that’s okay, because God has promised far greater things for those who obey him. If someone gets in the way of my happiness, I don’t like it, but I don’t wish them dead, because happiness in this life is such a small thing compared to what is available to us in the life to come.

So, how do we resolve this problem? If someone who hates Jesus kills me, that’s a good death, but it would be better to reach them for Christ. What message should we be communicating to these people? Should we stop telling people that immoral behavior is wrong? Should we teach nothing but “the love of God?” No. It got them killed, but none of the great preachers in the Bible ignored the topic of sin. And what many people mean when they talk about teaching on the love of God is that we shouldn’t tell people that they are sinful and just tell them that God loves them and wants them to go to heaven. “Don’t judge,” they say. No, to focus only on God’s wrath or to focus only on God’s forgiveness won’t help anyone.

The message that people need to hear is the message of John the Baptist and the message of Jesus. “Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Think about that message for a moment. You can’t repent if you don’t know you are a sinner. But notice also that it is a message of hope for the coming kingdom. There would be no reason for people to repent if they couldn’t be part of the kingdom of heaven. The message the people who believe YOLO need to hear is that they are sinners, but if they repent and put their faith in Jesus, they can have hope for the future.