Sunday, April 26, 2015

Christians are getting some seriously bad press lately. There are whole groups now dedicated to eradicating people of our faith from certain areas of the world, groups who have expressed their ambition to wipe Christianity off the face of the earth entirely.

When concern is expressed over this, reactions range from dismissive comments about these groups trying to generate media attention, to Christians being told “get over” the supposed persecution, since so much wrong and abuse has been perpetrated in the name of Christ.

I don’t want to go all political with this, just pointing out some of the responses to things happening in the world right now. And what’s our proper response to it?

In reading through Philippians, the thought occurred to me that the apostle Paul knew that even bad press was good press.

Think about recent public debates ... everything from popular books and films to megachurch pastors. A recent popular novel hardly registered on my personal radar until the huge flap over its adaptation to film, and while I was never interested in actually seeing it, I read many articles about the cultural phenomenon that was this story (and others). Similarly, a controversy surrounding a particular well-known pastor spurred me to dig into his teachings to see for myself if he was really as heretical as people claimed.

In other words ... anytime there’s a stink about something, people’s curiosity will be aroused. Some of those people might even find their opinions swinging in favor of whatever is being criticized so strenuously.

This might seem a poor comparison. Paul was not a fly-by-night evangelist nor a power-hungry pastor looking to keep people in line, but it’s clear that he knew plenty of both:

15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.

Can you imagine? He said, Christ is preached, whether it was done with a pure heart or not. This rather turns on its head the idea that the message is only valid insomuch as the messenger maintains integrity.

Of course, this doesn’t change the fact that as believers, our integrity is important. Vital, even.

27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God.

Whoa. Do you see that? Not in any way terrified by your adversaries.

As our brothers and sisters across the ocean are being slaughtered for their faith—as they whisper the name of the One who gave us a reason for courage to begin with—we can also take courage.

Not in any way terrified. Despite the news reports. Despite the dismissive attitudes of those who don’t share our faith, who maybe even think we’re getting what we deserve.

 29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.

Could it be ... it really is an honor to suffer?


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