Are We Ready to Suffer As REAL Christians?
I suspect, based on what I've seen of American Christendom lately, that there are many people who are going to suffer because they are called "Christians..."
...and it will be undeserved.
Why do I say that? Is it because Christians shouldn't suffer?
Of course not. The Bible says that we will. See, for example, Rom 8:17, Php 1:29, Rev 2:10.
The reason I say that it will be undeserved is because many people who will be suffering as "Christians" will not be suffering as Christians. They will be suffering for being something they aren't.
The quotation marks matter.
To suffer as a "Christian" means that people don't like you because of your religion. It's the same exact suffering that could happen to you if you were a Muslim during the Crusades, dying for your faith with bloodied sword (or at least with a hate-filled placard). There's nothing Christian about this kind of suffering. It's only religious. And, according to 1 Co 13:3, it gains the sufferer nothing.
To suffer as a real Christian means that people don't like you because they see Christ in you. Because you love Christ and follow Him in Spirit and in truth, the hatred they feel for Him rubs off on you.
AND ...get this... it means you suffer LIKE Christ...the WAY He suffered, with the same Spirit.
"As a Christian" means "As people filled by the Spirit of Christ in the world."
Are you and I ready to suffer as REAL Christians? Here's a quick-and-easy little test. It's not perfect, but it's a good start.
Look closely at the photo above. It's old and of poor quality, so feel free to click on it to enlarge it.
I know it's taxing on your eyesight, but here is my question. After taking a close and careful look at this photo, how many tragedies do you see?
If you say "It's hard to see, but there are two, the parent and child," then you have good eyesight.
If you say, "Three," then you have good heart-sight. Soul-sight. Christ-sight.
The man with the gun is a tragedy, too.
As is every hellbound soul.
Now, I'm not saying that "No real Christian would have said 'two.'" Not at all! For most of my Christian life (which has been much shorter than my "Christian" life), I would have said, "two" also.
But here's the real test. Does it matter to you and to me that Christ commanded us to love our enemies? To bless those who curse us? To pray for those who abuse us? (Luke 6:28, Rom 12:14) Or are we offended? Honestly, ask yourself: "Am I offended by His command (to the point of rejecting it) when I think of that particular enemy? That particular politician?"
"Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matt 11:6)
Do we see that enemy, that politician, as a tragedy if they don't know Christ and are bound for Hell? Or do we only see our own discomfort as a "tragedy?"
Are we...are YOU committed to obeying Him in this matter, by His grace? Are we submitting to His Spirit's promptings to love our enemies NOW?
Even on our Facebook pages?
Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15). He didn't expect perfection...that's why He came and died for sinners like me and like you. But still, the true Christian will keep Christ's commands, will believe that they are best, will seek to submit to Christ in the keeping of them, will repent every time he fails (which will be often), and will love the beauty of His commands.
Since Christ's commands are perfectly consistent with His character, it is impossible to reject His commands without rejecting His character. (And by the way, "Yes, but..." is rejection. So is the constant search for loopholes and exceptions.)
And Jesus didn't say that "Love your neighbor" was just a nice suggestion. He said it was the second greatest commandment, second only to the command that makes such love possible...the command to love the Lord with all your heart.
Are you convicted? Do you repent of your lack of love for your neighbor and enemy, and renew your commitment to Christ? Are you committed to seeking, by His Spirit, to love your enemy the next time you get a chance? Do you commit to repenting every time you fail to love your enemy (which will be often)? Do you know that you CAN'T do this alone, and are you committed to depending on His love flowing through you as you submit in weakness to Him? (I ask myself these questions as well!) Then rejoice! You are forgiven and cleansed, and you are getting ready to suffer as a REAL Christian.
If you and I are not committed to obeying Christ, especially in the commands that He called "greatest," then He says we do not love Him.
If that's you, if that's me, then we shouldn't bother suffering as a "Christian." It will gain us nothing.
- That I will love anyone who might respond to this post with enmity and hatred (!!!)
- That I will be humble if it gets good responses
- That I will not be satisfied with merely having written it...to the point of not bothering to keep trying to practice what I preach!