07 Feb Persecuted or Privileged?
“We preach Christ crucified…” 1 Cor 1:23 NIV
The cross is renowned as a symbol of Christianity, but in the day Jesus was crucified the cross was a place of great shame. We wear crosses around our necks, hang them on our walls and use them in our liturgical ceremonies, but do we remember the pain and the shame that Christ endured on this cross? Have we considered that scripture tells us He was marred beyond recognition?
I believe Christians who face life threatening persecution identify with this crucified Christ. They understand the reality of suffering for what they believe. The cross is an ever present image for them as they recognize what it means to lay down your life for what you believe. The early Christians considered it a privilege to suffer for their faith. The image and stories of this wonderful person Jesus Christ who did no wrong, being beaten and crucified for them, burned as an emblem of their faith. It was a motivation so deep that to consider one’s life more precious than one’s faith would almost seem preposterous.
As I read the reports from the young evangelists from Eurasia, I am stirred to remember the price the young people are paying to carry the Gospel to places such as Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and the remote villages of Eurasia. I remember one young group of missionary evangelists being chased out of town by the village leaders who were hurling threats and rocks at their backs. To those leaders’ surprise, however, the evangelists returned the next day. The village leaders were shocked! How could they do this? What would motivate them to come back even after being threatened with death?
These same leaders came to their knees to hear the wonderful message of Christ because of the boldness of these faithful witnesses!
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” 1 Peter 4:12-14 NIV.