Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Death Expectancy

When they aren't outright murdering church members, they are burning churches in India.

Buddhists are attacking Christians in Sri Lanka.

You can find hundreds more stories like these.

The Element crowd is currently going through some of Paul's prison epistles, and as we continue to look at Paul's talking about the "privilege of suffering" and considering oppression and persecution as blessings meant to conform us to the likeness of Christ, it has been important to remind those of us sitting on couches in a warm living room, un-cheap coffee in hand, gathered for a meeting that is publicly announced and advertised, that in Paul's day, becoming a Christian meant immediately and severely lowering your life expectancy.

And for most parts of the world -- the modern world -- the situation is still the same. Taking up one's cross to follow Jesus, which in Jesus' day meant embracing death, means for most Christians in the 21st century embracing death. The decision to accept Christ is the decision to lower your life expectancy considerably.
In our part of the world at this time, accepting Jesus typically means altering our lifestyle to some extent. Adding some Christianization to our routine. When it's real, there is real life change. I've seen redemption of the most powerful sort even in my short life.
But for none of us does "taking up my cross" mean following the likeness of Jesus unto death.

Now, I'm not one of those praying for a time of real persecution on the Church in the Western world. People who are practically begging God to test us with fire seem to me a little crazy.
I enjoy sitting in my Dada chair in my warm house, sipping coffee, reading a good book while my two little chickadees dance around without a care in the world. I enjoy being able to do all that without worrying about some nutjob throwing a malotov cocktail through my window. I don't worry about gunmen entering my church during worship (although that has happened in America in recent years).
I'm not saying martyrdom automatically makes one a better disciple. I'm not saying I'd like to have it hard.

But I am saying we -- and by "we," I mean the average American Christian -- ought to realize we have it easy. And we ought to, at the very least, thank God that we do. And pray for our brothers and sisters who don't.


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