Thursday, July 29, 2010

Risking It All For Those Who Would See Us Dead

There is a news story from last week about Christians in Iran risking their lives to hand out the Bible to non-believers. "Believers in Iran risk their lives to give out Bibles." This kind of reality seems to be so far removed from us that we may even think it is ridiculous that they would do such a thing. Iran is a country of extreme Islamic practice where trying to convert a Muslim to Christianity would end in death, so why do it? The fact that we would even ask this question tells us how far removed we are from the mission Jesus gave to us.

There are people risking their lives every day in various parts of the world by sharing the gospel of Jesus. It used to be agnostic governments trying to get people to throw off "superstitions" that were the threat in various places. However, these governments are now gone so we are able to see the greater threat that comes from various religions that fear the freedom of the gospel of Jesus. The people sharing the gospel of Jesus to a dark and dying world risk their lives because they are compelled to share the good news. At least that is how the Apostle Paul described it:

Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! (1 Corinthians 9:16)

I wonder how many times Paul was accused of being crazy by Christians who just wanted to live a quiet, simple life; going to church, attending Bible study, being nice to people. Why rock the boat? Why stir up problems as Paul tended to do? Because he was compelled to preach, to share the good news, to tell people about the love of Jesus. There are still some in today's age who are willing to respond to the compelling direction of the Spirit. It is not just people in Iran who are taking risks any more but even in our North American culture it is becoming a risk to talk to some groups about Jesus. Christians Arrested In Dearborn, Michigan.

There are people who have criticized this group for sharing the gospel, saying they should know better than to try to stir things up. Perhaps these were the same criticisms that the Apostle Paul faced and ignored. Such criticism reveals how little we understand the heart of the Father and the mission to which we have all been called. Again referring to some of Paul's explanation:

If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. (2 Corinthians 5:13-15)

I worry for us as the Body of Christ and I worry about myself; if we know the love of Jesus where is our passion to tell those who need him about him? I read on FaceBook today someone stating that Christians need to shed their outer skin and I am beginning to understand what that author meant. We have allowed so much dust and grime to build up on us that we have forgotten the passionate love of Jesus Christ. We are willing to take bits and pieces but hold back from drinking it all. But Jesus told us it is all or nothing when it comes to him. Our love for him must be so intense that our love in all other relationships would feel like hate in comparison. Does that describe many of us? For those who it does describe, it is a hard life in the Body of Christ. Those of us who want to appear as respectful citizens look down on such people and criticize them for disturbing the peace. How foolish we are to think that there can be any peace as long as people are suffering in their ignorance and dying every day without knowing the love of Jesus.

The Spirit certainly needs to shake us up to wake us up to the reality of the Kingdom, our citizenship, the responsibilities of citizenship and the compelling love of the Father. Having experienced reconciliation with the Father, you would think that we would understand his passion for the lost. You would think that we would hear him calling us to join him in this great work. You would think we would understand what Jesus was calling us to when he invited us to follow him. We are not here for the benefit package and the pampering. We have been called as soldiers of the cross to fight for those who are enslaved and trapped by the lies of the enemy. Jesus warned us that obedience to this call to follow him would cause us a great deal of discomfort and would come at a high cost as we reach out to a world that naturally hates us because of Jesus. Would you say that this is where you are, recognizing the calling, willing to take the risks involved, willing to stand out in our culture as being different from the norm? Would you say you are compelled to tell others about the love of Jesus? If not, why not? It is my prayer that this question will make us feel uncomfortable all day until we realize that we need to be renewed in this love. Meanwhile, stop criticizing those who are obedient and instead start praying for them.

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