And because of some recent rulings, some Christians are afraid. I've heard people mention that this will mean the beginning of persecution for Christians. Well, as I pondered all this yesterday it occurred to me that most people have no need to fear that they will be persecuted for being a Christian...because other than them going to church on Sunday, no one has a clue that they are Christian.
I'm as guilty as anyone. The question that came to mind was this, "Just how many times in the past week have I stepped out of my comfort zone and spoke to someone about the love of Christ?" Notice I didn't say the rules of Christ or the judgement of Christ, but of His love? Seems to me that most people have no need to worry that Christians will be persecuted simply because, as the old saying goes, if they were taken to court for being a Christian, there might not be enough evidence to convict! They need not fear.
That's not the kind of fear-free life I want, however. There is no promise that we will live a life free from trouble or that the world will always agree with what we say. In fact, as I've heard many times, it does promise that in this world we will have tribulation. We are told that the world will not always accept us, just as they did not accept Christ. But we are to be imitators of Him and in spite of hatred and persecution, we are to give love and forgiveness. The message that Christ gave never changed no matter what the world thought or what the modern interpretation of right might be. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind.
Today I was reminded of another story of standing up in the face of modern thought...the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace. These young men faced a challenge. They weren't told they had to give up worshiping their God, but simply that they ALSO had to bow down to the modern god before them. You probably know the story. They did not bow down. They still had to face that fiery furnace, but once inside they had one who "looked like the Son of God" with them. Oh yeah, they walked out of that trial free of the bonds that had once held them and they didn't even smell like smoke.
Today, more than ever, we need to realize that we have a message of hope and we have got to step out and share. Not bowing to popular opinion is scary, especially for those of us who hate to argue, but it's not really about arguing. It's about love.
One final instance came to mind in all of this. This summer at camp our students had the opportunity to go on the high ropes course. I have often looked at this course and WISHED I had to courage to try it. The course was very safe, but I have a real fear of heights. As I've gotten older, the fear has only intensified. I wanted to strap up and go on that course but my fear was much greater than my desire to try something new. Then I heard that frightened voice of one of the kids.
This little one was SO afraid. She was up there on that course and paralyzed with fear. There was only one thing I could do...I stepped out and went to her to help show her the way. (Some would say this was a case of the blind leading the blind...) I managed to get her to maneuver her way across the course. I must have done a good job because once she got started, she wanted to go on to greater heights. I had to admit to her, that I had reached my limit but I was SO proud of her for overcoming her fear.
There was only ONE thing that could make me go on that course - to reach someone in need. Maybe it's time we ALL started to step out, despite our fear, and share the LOVE of Christ. I don't have to agree with someone to love them; I just have to take that first step.
In the words of a prayer found on Mother Teresa's wall:
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
No need to be afraid.....