Persecution, Privaledge and Passion

I read the other day that persecution of Christians around the world is more prevalent today than in any other time in history.  It’s hard to imagine that in America, in our country of freedoms, the thought seems so extreme and primitive.  It’s something God is giving me new eyes to see though, the world outside my own.  It started with a question I had about the church in America today.  As I read through the gospels, then through Acts, and then the epistles… the church then seems so different than the church today.  I don’t mean that in a condemning way, but just in a matter of fact way.   What changed?  Culture and persecution?  Urgency and anticipation of Christ’s return?  Enlightenment and the ivy tower? I don’t think it’s any one thing, but i do think it’s worth considering and we need to be careful that we don’t let any of these factors bear more weight than the gospel.  The gospel should influence how I view culture, not the other way around.  

If I look at the Bible as a (divinely inspired) historical document, it makes me also want to read other historical documents to see what happened next.  So I picked up a book about the first 1000 years after Jesus, about the church, the apostles, the saints.  I’m not that far into it yet, but the plight of the early church in those first 100 years, the expectation of martyrdom, the culture that this “new religion” had to fight against – it’s a far cry from Christianity in America today.  And the church thrived.  It’s inspiring, to see their heart and conviction, their commitment to the great commission… their zeal and spiritual ferver.  The new testimont was not stories to them, it was not ancient historical text – they were letters written by men who knew Jesus, by eye witnesses to who he was.  Letters written by men they had met and who were still traveling to tell people about Jesus and encourage them in their faith.  They were willing to give everything, their whole life, to follow the way of Jesus.  To the last word.  They believed with passion that He might return at any moment, so their life, comfort, tomorrow, didn’t matter in comparison to doing His work.  Their saw their victory in Jesus, because all the promises of the old testimony were fulfilled in Him and he had provided our redemption.  They had the hope of heaven and saw His kingdom coming.  Around the world, Christians today are still suffering for His kingdom.  It leaves me today with an incredibly humbled and grateful heart for the freedoms I take for granted, but also a resolve not to let that privledge temper my passion.  Our victory is in Jesus alone.

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