Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. – 1 Tim 3:12
Recently, we were discussing this passage in a bible class, and it caused me to think more deeply about it than I really have before. I’m blessed to live in America, where people have been free to practice their beliefs for centuries. When the church was first established, that certainly wasn’t the case for most Christians. Physical persecution became a vivid reality for many Christians, and in certain parts of the world, the same holds true today.
Now of course, physical persecution isn’t the only kind there is. Maybe you don’t always fit in with people because of your beliefs, or maybe someone even mocks you for it. But let’s be honest with ourselves, that’s nothing compared to some of the horrors Christians in China or parts of the Middle East are faced with.
In free societies, I think our biggest danger is complacency. I think that real persecution tends to polarize people. You know, if you aren’t firmly convicted of your beliefs you won’t hold them for long in a society that punishes you for having them. But in a culture that doesn’t really care what you believe about something, it tends to take away the sense of urgency and importance that should come with religious beliefs. It allows people to claim a belief without really having to live it, defend it, or teach it. And thus, the church is watered down.
Now don’t get me wrong — I’m incredibly thankful to live in a society that allows freedom of religion. And my constant prayer is that everyone in this world will someday enjoy that same freedom. And having this freedom has definitely helped spread the cause of Christ. I wouldn’t even be able to write this blog as easily in a more oppressive society.
But it’s easy to wonder why some people get to live without fear of persecution, while some are hounded by it constantly. And of course, part of the reason is that certain things are allowed to happen in the world, regardless of who we are. As Matthew 5:45 says, “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
But I think there’s another aspect too. As Uncle Ben told Peter Parker, “with great power comes great responsibility.” For those of us who live in a free society, we’ve been given an awesome opportunity! There’s no reason for us to sit idly and do nothing. We have at our disposal countless resources for learning more about God’s word, and for sharing it with others. Personal acquaintances, blogs, online message boards, and even (especially) your own family and friends are all people that need the gospel. Maybe some of them have already committed their lives to Christ, but I’ll be that many of them haven’t. What are you doing to change that?
We have nothing to fear from our government or even from roving bands of extremists. Typically, the only thing standing in our way is ourselves. And I think that the biggest difference between someone living in a fearful, persecutive (yes, that’s a real word) society and someone living in a free one is expectation. I believe that God expects more from those of us who are capable of more. The Parable of the Talents shows us that God requires each one of us to do our best, even if the individual outcomes vary. The man with 2 talents was rewarded, even though he hadn’t done as well as the man with 5 talents, and it was because he had done what he was able.
And just imagine what we’re capable of, those of us who don’t have to fear persecution. Am I doing all I can? Are you?