This last week our NHOP interns and my myself had the privilege of receiving some amazing teaching from Sudhakar Mondihoka from Hyderabad Institute of Theology and apologetics in India. The topic of the meetings was the theology of discipleship and persecution. In a western Christian culture so often dominated by health and wealth gospel Sudhakar’s teaching stands out remarkably. Honestly I assumed it would be a time of informing us about some of the ways the Church of Christ was being persecuted in some far off place. Actually that was far from the mark. Sudhaker systematically walked us through how persecution was part of the normal walk of any Christian and we should expect it.
That hit closer to home then hearing about some far away land.
Think about it for a minute. How often do we as Christians avoid conversations or giving an opinion counter to that of the prevailing cultural opinion simply because we are afraid of a potential backlash. Persecution does not have to be physical, (however, for many it sadly is) it can mean being ostrasized for our beliefs, outcast from social groups and being the brunt of cruel mockery.
The thing that really convicted me was that this is as Sadarker put it, “a spiritual measuring line for where you are at in your own walk with Christ”. If your not encountering any persecution, chances are you are not stepping out in the call to bring the gospel to all the world. Suffering for the name of Jesus is what it means to be persecuted. We all have regular trials and tribulations of life that we encounter everyday, maybe sickness, a rude person in the checkout line or impatient work colleagues. That’s just life. Persecution occurs when we, because of the name of Jesus, are singled out for persecution.
Standing up for what is right will automatically put us into conflict. Jesus warned his disciples that they would be persecuted. In Luke 9:22-23 Jesus says that to follow him we must “deny ourselves and daily pick up our cross”. The Christian passover is often the “daily” portion of this passage. To daily choose the way of the cross – Self denial, serving the needs of Christ and putting him before our own desires.
I have often wondered how Paul and Silas, there in the prison cell in the book of Acts were able to sing praises and hymns to God in spite of being brutally beaten. They knew in their hearts what James tells us in his first chapter, “Consider it pure joy when you face trails of many kinds”, they were rejoicing because they were suffering for Christ and because the gospel message was going out into the world.
1Tim 3:12 “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”. The Christian life and walk of the believer fully sold out to the things of the kingdom will be persecuted. But we should be able to know that we are suffering of the highest cause and ultimately our hope is found in the greatest hope of all Jesus Christ.