Acts 8:4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.
This one sentence exposes why persecution has historically served to grow the Church. This proves that it wasn’t just the apostles who felt that “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20) They were being persecuted for proclaiming Jesus, but they couldn’t stop proclaiming Jesus! This is a sad contrast to the majority of Christians today. I don’t remember the numbers, but studies have been done that show a remarkably small percentage of American Christians have ever talked to anyone about faith in Christ. These days it’s not politically correct even to imply that anyone needs salvation, much less that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. We use the phrase, “the courage of your convictions,” but too many people seem to lack convictions, never mind the courage. That is a sad state of affairs indeed! We are so afraid of what people will think or say that we’re willing for them to rot in hell rather than risk our own embarrassment. It’s no wonder we don’t see the results that the 1st Century believers did! Fortunately, attacks on faith and people of faith have become blatant enough in recent years that people are starting to wake up. It’s interesting that the issue at hand seems to focus on sexuality and marriage. The Roman Empire was so corrupt that one of the emperors actually married his horse! When there are parallels like that, we need to take hope and start acting like 1st Century Christians.
It has long bothered me that the Tokugawa persecution in Japan was the only “successful” persecution in the history of the Church. I still puzzle over why, but when Christianity was proscribed, Christians were effectively eliminated from the land. The movie, Silence, made from the book of the same title by Shusaku Endo, shows us one potential answer. It’s possible the people, missionaries included, were more focused on temporal “salvation” than they were on eternal salvation. Those who had that right were martyred with joy, but far too many discarded their faith to avoid suffering. The other side of that is that the Japanese are a very obedient people. It is amazing to people of other nations that Japanese will for the most part wait patiently in line for almost anything, and even jaywalking is rare. Those might be good things, but when people discard their faith simply because the “authorities” say to do so, that’s a major problem. This is a theoretical issue to many, but I am called to minister in Japan, so I deal with it constantly. I find it rare, and refreshing, to encounter those for whom faith is their life. David proclaimed that “Your love is better than life.” (Psalm 63:3) We sing the chorus based on that verse, both in the US and in Japan, but how many of us live that way? I need to live with right priorities myself before I can hope to lead others into those priorities.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for the brother who is to be baptized today. I pray that he, and all of us in this church, would indeed value our relationship with You above everything else and be ceaseless in sharing Christ with all who will hear, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!