Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Blood of Martyrs

In reading the news this morning, I thought of Tertullian. He was a Christian preacher from a fairly early stage of Christian history. Tertullian lived from about 160 to 225. I thought of him when I read the news today because the news this week has been full of indications that open persecution of Christians is quickly becoming the norm in our society. We might be helped in facing persecution now if we knew more about how Christians faced it in the past.

Tertullian is credited with having said, "The first reaction to truth is hatred." That is true. That fits with what Jesus said in passages like John 15:18-20. Sometimes people can be brought to see the truth, but their first reaction is almost always hatred.

Historically, Christians expected to be opposed. Christians expected to be hated. Christians expected that many would violently reject the gospel. It has only been in recent times that we have imagined that we could somehow sugarcoat the truth making palatable to the worldly. Anything made pleasing to the worldly is no longer the truth, for the world always has, and always will, hate the truth (John 3:19).

The current trend of our government is toward open persecution. Obviously, that will concern us, but should it alarm us? We have prayed that the kingdom might grow. Tertullian's generation found that nothing spread the faith better than persecution faithfully endured. His most famous quote is "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church."

I do not like the prospect of persecution any more than you, but I acknowledge that it might be just what we need. For separating the true believers from the lukewarm, for spreading the true faith instead of our culturally compromised religion, there really may be no alternative to open persecution. It appears to be coming, whether we like it or not, so we might as well embrace it for all it is worth.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

An Ordinary Guy

And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. Isaiah 22:22

All too often our thinking seems to be something like this, "If the Lord had called me to some great task, I would have done it. But he has not called me, so I will do nothing. He is not working in my life, at least not like he did in the lives of the great ones of long ago."

Really? Please give your attention to the verse cited above. Of whom is this verse speaking? Who is it that will receive the key of the house of David? Who is it of whom it is said, "He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open"?

Those words may later be applied metaphorically to Jesus (Rev 3:7), but they are spoken of an ordinary guy, a servant employed by Hezekiah a man named Eliakim (Isa 22:20-22). If Eliakim had claimed this authority for himself, that would have been arrogance. But he did not claim it. God spoke and it was so. The authority of God's servant does not rest within the servant but within the fact that the servant is doing God's will.

We face an impossible task. We face a world that has lost its mind. We face a world that calls evil good and good evil. We face a world that refuses to listen. We face nothing new (Isa 5:20; Jer 13:10).

We do not have the power to overcome this world, but we do have the power to obey God. We do not have the ability to force the world to listen, but we do have the ability to speak God's word. We cannot control the outcome, but we can do our job.
And who knows, perhaps the Lord will choose to work in us as he worked in Eliakim. Perhaps some door we open will remain open, or some door we close will remain closed.