Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Faith Tested

1 Thes. 1:6-10 (ESV)
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, [7] so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. [8] For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.
The result of faith? The Thessalonians became imitators of Paul and his entourage, and of the Lord. In other words they received the word in much affliction. Somehow it has gotten out there that to be a Christian is to become successful. We think we are being persecuted if someone doesn’t listen to us, or doesn’t want to hear our mantra about how “God loves you.” Christianity is not a bed of roses. One way or another you will suffer for it. You will not receive your best life now for it. That is the point of Christianity, that is the reason we suffer as Christians. We know that we have a better life waiting for us. The Thessalonians at least knew this. They received the word in the midst of affliction. In this they became an example to all the believers. They were examples in that they believed despite the persecution. Not because they managed to get a nice house, with a big garage and a few cars for believing.
Persecution still happens. Here in the states it isn’t noticed much. Most of it is not very overt. In Utah it may be a little more so. The climate here is one that just slowly grinds at the soul. Family pressure not to become Christian is intense. There are places though where people lose their lives for the faith. Some lose their spouses. Some never see their children again. These people are examples of faith. Not that they don’t sin. I’m sure they do. I’m sure they don’t suffer with smiles on their faces. They get mad, they lash out at times. But they stand firm in the faith. And return to Christ for forgiveness when they go wrong. And their faith reaches us it goes everywhere before them.


Anonymous said...

This is an issue I've pondered on a lot over the years given various experiences I've had.

I see persecution also not only so overt but even from within denominations. Paul makes a comment in Gal. about Ishmael’s persecution. When we refer back to that in Gen. we find it was laughter at the promise upon which his faith was built. Therein, to me, lays the essence of persecution against the Word of promise. We see it on the Cross with Jesus, nothing could have been as horrible to His suffering than to the crowd chanting, “See His abandoned by God”. Nothing is worse than those words hurled at us by atheist or even other denominations than that. We tend to think of persecution as only either of the Sword, and that is true, that happens. Not here in the US today so much but around the world. But what is the essence of that sword persecution? To unhinge their real hope the faith in the Word for them, it goes back to the Word itself and within that they can point to their situation, their persecutors, and say, “See your Jesus has abandoned you…abandon Him”.

However, I think we grossly miss persecution in this country if we only look to the sword. Every word from an atheist or other religion that says, “God is false or not” is a persecuting laughter at the very Word that is more dear than life itself to us. But I think it is even deeper than that. For it is not just the atheist or the Mormons that persecute the life giving Word for us and to us personally. But also, certain doctrines in certain denominations such as those that speak to the Sacraments themselves, which are the Word in water, bread and wine TO US and FOR US. Especially are these dear to Lutherans, or they should be for in these that critical “for me” is given. Yet, nothing hurts more on the conscience than to hear an otherwise trusted Baptist or respected highly visible Baptist pastor or theologian spew out their doctrine of believers baptism. For unknown to them that other word seeks to unhinge that “for me” Gospel in the waters of baptism to which is dearer than life itself to one. In reality I would rather the entire world fall apart into one giant hell storm than to loose that Word. Death of the body itself is nothing compared to the fiery hell released in this doctrine, believers baptism, which so seeks to wrench from the hand of the suffering Christian and his/her faith the dear gift that says “God’s will is for you to save you”.

What’s insidious about this is that such folks do not intend nor see what they speak as persecution, after all they are not denying grace alone and in fact affirm it, but they do not see what harm it causes. It’s harm is not harmless, it is a persecuting word from the evil one bent on basically saying to you, “hath God really said” and thus no different internally to the soul as to the second death than the one with the threat of the sword over his/her neck – both are being persecuted that “God is not FOR THEM” but in fact against them. This in no way is to down play those who actually do suffer loss of life and goods for the faith, but we can never down play the other either. For even Paul said when Ishamael laughed that he persecuted Isaac and Ishamael was in the household of Abraham himself.

Like I’ve told my wife, if I come to affirm under the temptation that my children were not baptized (they were baptized as infants) then I cannot say I was (I was as an adult under immersion). And if I cannot say that then I’m back under those pitch black dark days of torment that I’ve been abandoned of God since I cannot see if or if not I have the faith whereby I was baptized and may rest. If that happens I a dead man walking again.

The greater insidiousness of this from the evil one is that in a sense a Christian can suffer more easily the rage of atheist, it still tempts one and the persecution of the anti-Word is there. But it is magnitudinally greater when the Christian suffers the anti-Word in other baptismal doctrines, for we like to trust these fellow Christians. Earthly analogy: If my enemy says, “I hate you”, that hurts but I can take it due to our relationship. But if my friend says, “I hate you”, that’s a different level of hurt. And if a family member says, “I hate you”, that’s even worse.

So those in mixed denominational families see this ‘in-house’ persecution and it weighs on the conscience with greater daily temptation to “give in” just to keep the peace.



Nancy said...

Larry, I agree that it is the saddest of situations that we face in the Christian life to have our precious faith destroyed by our own brothers and sisters in Christ...those who should come along side of us and uphold the joy of life Christ purchased for us on the His very Blood...this should never be!