Looking around the world today, it seems that each new sunrise brings word of a new political uprising. Almost without fail, these demonstrations turn violent and people are killed and wounded. Oppressive regimes grow in power and the persecution of Christians grows more frequent and violent with each day. European nations have all but abandoned the way of Jesus, and exchanged it for a life of relativism, cynicism and ultimately hopelessness. In America, a nation once considered the shining light of the world, we see a downward spiral of respect for authority and for God. The whole world has seemingly gone crazy, and perhaps we should expect nothing less from a planet that has abandoned its Creator to seek selfish pleasure and gain.
Yet there remain those of us committed to following Jesus with every step we take. In a world gone mad and increasingly hostile to our faith, I have to ask, “Why do we do it?” What drives us to continue pursuing Christ when we could simply relax and enjoy life, when we could drink in its pleasures while we still can? Why would we choose to risk persecution, torture and even death for the sake of Jesus Christ? Surely it would be simpler to just live our lives as happily as possible while pursuing whatever is left of the American dream; but we have chosen to go another way.
For those of us who have truly surrendered our lives to Jesus, we have hope for the future. We have a moral compass and a guiding light. Those without Christ live life on their own terms and with their own view of morality. We see the results in the newspaper every day; it’s not working. The way of Jesus offers a clear alternative, but one that is increasingly unpopular. People view Christianity as a religion of uptight, old-world thinkers who carry a list of “Thou Shalt Not’s” in their pocket. We have an image problem in a world suffering from an identity crisis. Much of this we have brought on ourselves; by refusing to accept the whole Word of God as truth, we have picked out the parts we like best, the verses that best suit our lives. Left behind are the challenging words of Christ that tell us how we should live, not just how we shouldn’t. We have chosen piety over servitude, and the world has rejected our implications.
The persecutions faced by Christ-followers today are not worth it if all we are fighting for is a higher caste or larger piece of the pie. I refuse to be persecuted simply because I live by a list of “don’ts”. If I am going to face death for my faith, it is because my faith is in Someone whose mission is far greater than I; it will be because He loved me so much that I cannot help but return that love to others around me. I refuse to die simply for a cause; but I will sacrifice everything for the One who died that I might live. Jesus endured intense persecution and torture on my behalf. He loved tirelessly and in the end He was killed because of it. He touched the sick, the poor and all those in need; He fed the hungry and gave water to the thirsty. For these things, He was crucified. Jesus could have chosen a life of luxury and power. Instead He chose to be a servant to all. Such was the love He had for you and me.
So why do we do it? Why do we place our lives in peril and sacrifice all the world has to offer to us? We do it because He did it for us. I do it because this is the life He modeled for me. Once one experiences the love of Jesus Christ and comes to understand what He sacrificed on their behalf, they cannot ever be the same. The love of Christ surpasses anything you could ever imagine; it consumes you and fills you with purpose and meaning.
You can have your cynicism and your earthly pursuits. I’ll choose Jesus every time. You can pursue greatness in the eyes of men. I’ll choose the humility and servitude of Christ. Take your riches and your possessions; I would rather have the peace and simplicity of Jesus. This is why we do what we do; this is why we follow Him. We recognize that His ways are greater than ours, and that His love is beyond compare. We love because He first loved us; we serve because He came to serve us. Jesus died for my sins; I will live for His glory. I will spend my life reflecting His love to the poor, the sick and the helpless. This is the love of Jesus, and this is why we follow Him.