Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Better, Longer-Lasting Possession

For several weeks now, I've been reading about the increasing pressure in the US to give way to the tremendous momentum gained by the movement to redefine marriage (perhaps "undefine" would be a better word).  As Christian celebrities, sports celebrities and institutions choose to either cave in or at least distance themselves from the controversy, bloggers and commentators all have an opinion on how these people and groups should properly respond.  The response that has surprised me most, however, is a reaction to the most recent incident of a well-known figure backing out of a speaking engagement.  While I certainly don't know the factors and the motivation that went into his decision, most people seem convinced that it was made for the purpose of avoiding controversy.  What surprises me is the number of people who defend his decision on the basis that association with a controversial church could hurt his career and jeopardize his national platform for being an inspiration.

The purpose of this post isn't to analyze that particular situation, but to compare it with some of our precious friends here in Central Asia.  We are so blessed to have the opportunity to fellowship with those who, like Paul, bear in their body the marks of the Lord Jesus.  They're here in our current city as refugees, in legal limbo, but there's no trace of anger or bitterness.  Just bubbling joy tinged with sadness.  Their life is difficult, but they are busy about the work of sharing the Gospel wherever they go.  Some of our friends from another Central Asian country continue their ministry in country.  If they're imprisoned, they witness the truth to their cellmates.  When they're released, they return to their churches and start new ones.  They have all suffered tremendous loss but are totally satisfied in knowing Christ and the fellowship of his sufferings.  I wonder what they would think of the idea that protecting a career--even a career in ministry--is more important than clearly stating our belief in God's Word.

We might be tempted to think that imprisonment for faith in Christ isn't the same as being embroiled in controversy over ethics.  We might tell ourselves that it's okay to avoid this particular controversy, or distance ourselves from an unpopular position, but when it comes down to denying Christ, then we can and should stand firm in the face of intense persecution.  I'm not convinced that it works that way, though.  If we choose to protect ourselves from simple harassment by our silence on an issue of Christian ethics, where would we suddenly find the strength to suffer the loss of all things for the sake of the name of Christ?

I agree with those who say we should pray for Christians in the national spotlight.  But we also need to pray for ourselves.  May we all be like the first recipients of the book of Hebrews, who joyfully accepted the plundering of their property, knowing that they had a better possession and a lasting one.

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