Wednesday, November 12, 2008

American Martyrdom

One of my sisters recently found herself in the unwanted position of potentially having to end a friendship for the sake of the gospel. My sister had been witnessing to one of her friends, and this woman was very closed to the things of God - she wanted nothing to do with him, and she thought that anybody who was a Christian was a judgmental, bigoted, jerk (which is odd, considering that she's friends with my sister!). It finally came to a head a few weeks ago: the woman became very angry at my sister's insistence on biblical truth, and she flipped her lid. My sister didn't want it to happen, but the relationship is most likely over - all because this woman hates God. I told my sister that it was the right thing to do, and to try to compromise and remain friends with her would be compromising the truth and the gospel. My sister sent her an email explaining that her motives were pure, and that she harbored no ill-will towards her. To my knowledge, no response to her email has come as of yet.

A couple weeks ago, the Sunday School class at my church that I frequent (Don't Waste Your Life) was talking about risk, and specifically, risk for the sake of the gospel and the glory of God. As Americans, I think we have a hard time risking things in our life for the glory of God mostly because we live in such a safe country that prides itself on religious freedom. Christians in other countries fear persecution or even martyrdom for their faith. We suffer no such thing in this country.

What then can I risk for Christ? To answer this question, you need to start thinking outside of the box. First, you need to take physical harm, pain, or death out of the picture because again, those aren't things we worry about in America. Therefore, risk in our context is probably something more like risking finances or possessions by giving them to ministry, or risking relationships by entering into them with the specific intention of delivering the gospel. As my sister can testify to, people's hearts are naturally hard and don't want to have anything to do with the gospel. Knowing that then, and entering into a relationship for the specific purpose of preaching the gospel could have seemingly disastrous consequences. In other words...risk.

I recently came across a good article that basically says what I've said above. Rick James, the article's author, makes the case that martyrdom in the USA has nothing to do with pain and death. Instead it has everything to do with the potential death of your reputation, or the potential death of a relationship you are in for the sake of the gospel. I highly recommend the article to you.

The catch is, however, that Christians in this country usually only risk if they're forced into it. In other words, people only stand up for the gospel and biblical truth if they're forced into a corner. That's a completely defensive and backwards attitude. Christians need to be intentionally entering into relationships knowing that both their reputation and the relationship itself is on the line because of the gospel, and they need to be willing to sacrifice both for the sake of God's word going forth.

As stated earlier, Christians in other countriese are persecuted and killed for their faith. We face nothing of the sort in our country. Our response to that fact? Praise God that he has blessed us with religious freedom. Our second response should be an undying willingness (and actually, eagerness) to risk our reputation and friendship with others for the sake of the gospel.

When compared to what Christians in other countries go through, American martyrdom really isn't that bad.

(Note: I am by no means equating the minor "pain in the butt" type of persecution that Americans experience to the persecution that Christians experience over seas. The two are not comparable. I am simply saying that any "persecution" that might be experienced in America is extremely tolerable, and we should be living our lives in such a way as to seek it out for the glory of the gospel.)

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