Posts Tagged ‘persecution’

I know what you might be thinking, I don’t come here for science, politics or anything of the sort. I come here for creative ministry tips, well this is related to that. I’m not talking about the climate of the earth. I’m talking about the climate of the culture. Roseanne made some bad comments and got fired from her own show. Probably should have happened, racism is not acceptable in any circumstances, but I’m not her judge. Another high profile celebrity reportedly said worse things things to a guest on her show but will be allowed to keep working because she is on the other side of the political aisle. If the story is true, she at least had the common sense not to put out there for the world to read. I’m not her judge either and because I don’t know for sure the story is true, I won’t divulge her name.

The point is, the climate has changed. Were Don Rickles to start his career today, he would be run out of town on a rail. We can’t laugh at ourselves anymore. People are triggered by more and more things and less and less things are “sayable.” If you’re a Christian in this climate, you need to know you already have two and a half strikes against you and I don’t know that it will get a lot better. What does this mean? Should we be silent, cringing in the corner in fear. No. Instead we should be careful to say what needs to be said in love. Speaking the truth in love is more key than it has been in a long time.

Getting by without offending someone is essentially impossible in this climate, especially since we serve the One who is called a rock of offense in 1 Peter 2:8, and if people are offended by the Gospel, that’s on them, unless you are being deliberately offensive in which case, the Gospel isn’t the problem, you are. We can survive and even thrive in this climate, so long as we accept two things. First we Christians will never be universally popular and we’re becoming increasingly unpopular. No surprises there, Jesus said it would happen.

Matthew 5:11, 12 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Secondly we need to make sure that we always lead with love. Jesus told us more about how to navigate this climate just before the verses above, just to prove that while this climate is changing, that is nothing new.

Matthew 5:3“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

To thrive in this climate, we just have to be all of the above.

I thought I did. I did an hour and a half on forgiveness last night for a church full of people and it went very well. Many people told me they were blessed. Then today we had a guest speaker at our church. This man was from a place where the church is being genuinely persecuted. He spoke of losing his father when he was a first grader, having been adopted by an older brother and then that older brother having been murdered by terrorists.

He understands forgiveness and I have a lot to learn. I pray I never have to learn it the way he did. This was one of the most motivating and convicting things I have ever experienced.
Hearing him made me want to do stuff and to me that’s the truest sign that something got through.

God is good.

This is a departure from the usual art and ministry posts I post here. As I sit to write, I realize this may be the most controversial thing I have ever written and with it comes an unusual plea. Please do not read this post unless you plan on reading it through to the end.

It was after the grand juries ruled in Ferguson and New York. People took to the streets with a rallying cry. Black lives matter. I understood their passion as much as a person from the majority can. These cases made many people feel as if their lives didn’t matter.

I had a little tougher time when a university president was widely chastised for sending out an email ending with “All lives matter.” Some of the people  seemed to feel this cheapened the Black Lives Matter  statement. I saw it as a person responsible for students from all across the human rainbow calling for peace and calm and affirming the value of all those in her care.

Over the last few weeks though, I saw something that made me question everything. ISIS affiliated terrorists attacked French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo killing at least a dozen people. It was all over the news. This week a community in Nigeria was attacked by a group called Boko Haram killing thousands and the media coverage was nominal. This is the same group that kidnapped hundreds of school girls to sell them as slaves, burning churches and mosques and slaughtering people in the streets. A lot of people, including myself started asking, “don’t these black lives matter?”

Or is it something else? Why was Charlie Hebdo so much bigger news? Was it race? Maybe (probably at least partially) but consider this. Where do we hear about the news of the world? From the media. What was the Charlie Hebdo attack? An attack on the media. Could this be it? Could it be we get more fired up when the attack comes against people we see as “our own?” Is free speech and freedom of the press more important to our society than freedom of religion? It better not be because here’s the thing, freedom is freedom. Lose one, lose them all. In the world of these attackers there is no free speech, no free press, no freedom of religion. To them the only lives that matter are the ones who agree with them. We dare not be that way.

Seeing the photos from Nigeria angered me beyond words. I know I am not alone, because I saw other pleas wondering what we, the U.S., would do about this. The question though is what will we do? Drop bombs? That would kill the innocent with the guilty. Some act as if Islam is the problem, but these radicalized groups are a very small minority and do not speak for all (or even most) Muslims, as a matter of fact, they regularly kill Muslims who they see as not “hard-core” enough. Blaming all Muslims makes no more sense than blaming all Christians for some of the heinous things done by people who called themselves Christians but lived lives that were anything but. What is to be done to stop these things?

Last week in church we were addressed by a pastor from Nigeria. The stories he told make it clear, it’s worse than even than what we know. He also reminded us that this is not just something that happens far away and it can happen here. What he told us was critical. God will avenge. He said this not in a mean and hateful way, but merely to state that God is the only one who can handle vengeance, the only one who truly understands justice, therefore vengeance belongs to Him. He gets to decide how this is handled. You might be asking what is this Nigerian pastor doing in the U.S. while all this is going on? Practicing what he preaches. Getting training to help people to deal with the trauma they are facing.

We Christians get to follow Jesus and His example. Jesus called us to turn the other cheek, to love our enemies,  to pray or our persecutors. Ephesians 6:12 tells us: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Other people are not our enemies, this battle is Spiritual. We can’t afford to be us and them anymore (especially in the church). Jesus didn’t come just for His own. Jesus came for all who would call on His name. To Him we all matter. Our lives matter and how we live those lives matters most of all.

Your life matters. Live it to the glory of God in a way that points people to Jesus,