A few days ago Al Qaeda terrorists stormed a church in Iraq and held hostage those who were gathered there. An attempt to free them by the police turned deadly and as I write this the number of those killed is fifty-two. Many more were injured and may not survive. I lead with this to remind us all that while this blog deals with the spiritual side of things, there is a very real physical element to our decision to follow Jesus. While spiritual warfare rages around us unseen, the implications of that very battle are manifested in human lives at every moment. It is said here often: following Jesus is difficult and not for the faint of heart; what perhaps isn’t said enough is that following Jesus can be deadly.
We should expect nothing less, for when we decide to follow in the footsteps of Christ we know where they eventually lead. Jesus steadfastly and purposefully walked to His own death on a cross. I hope you have not been deceived into believing that following Jesus would lead to a life of prosperity, health and the comforts of all this world has to offer. Sorry, but that’s not in the program. Jesus said that we must give up everything for His sake and that we must be willing to lay down our lives for Him, just as he did for us. He told us we would have no place to call home here on earth, and that we would face trial and persecution. None of this should come as a surprise or a shock. Yet every day Christians live in oblivious bliss, confident in their confession of faith, while blindly ignoring what it means to follow Jesus.
It is sobering to hear of the slaughter and torture of our Christian brothers and sisters. We become pensive and introspective. But for those of us who are able to do something about the injustice, we must do more that reflect; we must act. If you live in the West, you are blessed beyond all measure. We are richer than any people that have come before us. We have the ways and we have the means to come to the aid of our brothers and sisters in need. We have the technology and the know-how to proclaim the gospel to lands that forbid us to do so. We have been given so much and therefore much is required of us. We have grown comfortable and lazy in our homes and cities. We have lost the stomach to fight for the orphans, the windows and for justice. Now is the time to must rise up and fight for the name of Jesus. We must take a stand and proclaim His love and His message to all peoples, regardless of the cost to our own lives. If we are not willing to forsake everything, to lose our very lives, then how dare we call ourselves followers of Christ?
These are not easy words, but they also are not new. Look again at what Jesus told us to do. We are to go into all the world to teach others about Him. Yet two thousand years after He gave this command, a third of the world still has never heard His name or experienced His love. What excuse do we have for this? We are not doing enough. Christians around the world are giving their lives for the sake of continuing His mission, and we in the West are content to build buildings and insulate ourselves from all that is happening around us. God forgive us.
What are we to do? Pray diligently and confess our apathy. Weep before God, acknowledge our weakness and beg for the courage to run the race He has set before us. We travel a road that leads to physical death but spiritual life. We must not waver; the mission is too important. Too many have not heard, and it is up to us to tell them; if not us, then who? If not now, then when? We who bear the blood of Jesus must not shy away from shedding our own blood for the sake of His kingdom. The responsibility is ours, and it is great. Together we must carry our cross into the world to continue the mission of Christ. We must not grow weary, because we cannot fail.