"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

We Christians in the West Are Soft

We who name Christ as our King and are immersed in western civilization and culture have little concept of what it means to suffer for "Christ's name's sake." Our church buildings are beautiful and comfortable, our worship services are moving and meaningful, and our lives run like clockwork. Think back to how you felt the last time the lights went out during a storm. Were you irritated? Lost? Or do you remember your reaction the last time your 4G phone service went off-line? Were you frustrated? Perplexed? When our greatest discomforts in life revolve around electricity and electronics instead of challenges to our faith and discipleship of others, we American Christians have become too soft. Don't misundersand: This softness isn't a moral dilemma for us; it is simply a meaningful description of us. We didn't ask to become soft, our culture has made us soft.

This is why a knowledge of history, geography, and current events is so important. When Christian kids in the west feel the greatest disappointment for them during the holidays is in not getting just the right number or kind of gifts, then we are doing a disservice to them by not helping them become interested in the world at large and the world of the past. For many centuries, Christians have been persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Christ. Sadly, Voice of the Martyrs tells us that more Christians have been killed or martyred in the last century than in all of the previous centuries combined. We don't know about this because it doesn't happen in the west. That's why it is important for us to open the eyes of our kids to the world outside of modern western civilization. When the Burleson kids were growing mom and dad read to them Fox's Book of Martyrs during our morning devotional. It made their cereal and oatmeal more difficult to eat as we read, but is sure helped them understand that many Christians have not lived as cushy of lives as we.

Today, I was moved by reading a letter from Pliny the Younger to Roman Emperor Marcus Trajan. Pliny was the governor of Bythinia in northwest Turkey in the early second century, and he considered Emperor Trajan his best friend. The letter, written about AD 111, vividly describes to Trajan how Pliny deals with the Christians in Bythinia, people Pliny considered enemies of the Roman Empire for their refusal to ascribe deity to the Roman Emperor and say, "Caesar is Lord."

Pliny writes,
"I have asked them if they are Christians, and if they admit it, I repeat the question a second and a third time, with a warning of the punishment awaiting them. If they persist in avowing themselves followers of the one they call Christ, I order them to be led away for execution; for, whatever the nature of their admission, I am convinced that their stubbornness and unshakable obstinacy ought not to go unpunished...

The sum total of their guilt amounts to no more than this: they meet regularly before dawn on a fixed day to chant verses alternately amongst themselves in honor of Christ as if to a god, and they also bind themselves by oath, not for any criminal purpose, but to abstain from theft, robbery and adultery...

This has made me to decide it was all the more necessary to extract the truth by torture from two slave-women, whom they call deaconnesses. I find them to be nothing but a degenerative sort of cult carried to extravagamt lengths."

Next time you complain about the carpet in your auditorium, or the comfort and style of the chairs that you sit in at church, or the lack of funding for your special church programs, remember those two Christian deaconnesses from Bythiania and the torture they endured so that Pliny could get to the truth about this cult called Christianity. Those two women endured something you may never face in your lifetime, but we can sure learn from them. Christianity to them was life, not convenience. The only thing that will harden us up in the west without facing persecution ourselves is a vocal acknowledgement that much of what we get attached to in church are those things that are comfortable and make us feel wonderful instead of those things that are missional and make us very purposeful.

13 comments:

Steve Martin said...

Amen!

We do have it soft.

We are spoiled rotten. But that they may all change in the not-too distant future.

Anonymous said...

Wade

For the past 30 yrs, I have always beleived that I would see christian persecution upon Christians here in America towards the end of my lifetime IE in about 20 yrs from now when I am 70.

It looks like we are still on task for that to come about if not accelerated-and I do not mean that in a bragging manner as in "Bill was right". I only mean it as a statement of fact.

Grace to all

Bill

Romans 5:1

Victorious said...

I don't know what I would ever do if I was faced with persecution. My mind just won't go there. I've not seen the "Passion of Christ" movie and cann't even look at pictures from that movie. I'll never read Fox's Book of Martyrs, and I mostly watch a fist-fight at a hockey game through the fingers of my hand plastered against my face.

Even the words violence and suffering are barely in my vocabulary and are purposefully blocked from my mind as a coping mechanisim.

I know we are soft, but I hope to continue in softness or die before any persecution comes our way.

Color me soft and weak.... :(

Anonymous said...

If this is true...

"We who name Christ as our King and are immersed in western civilization and culture have little concept of what it means to suffer for "Christ's name's sake,"

What do you do with 2 Tim 3:12?

"In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."

Wade Burleson said...

Anonymous,

Either,

"Nobody in the west desires to live a godly life" (not my view), or...

"Some Scripture verses need to be understood in the context of the century in which they were written, to the people to whom they were written, and the reasons for which they were written. EVERYONE in the late 1st century who desired to live a godly life would be persecuted."

Anonymous said...

Gently- I see well-I don't need caps or bold print. :)

Or perhaps your words were true...
"Those...who name Christ as King and are immersed in western civilization ..."have little concept of what it means"... to suffer for "Christ's name's sake..."

enjoy the day :)

Bob Cleveland said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob Cleveland said...

My favorite local church in all the world is Red Hills Baptist Church, just outside Kingston, Jamaica. I remember when we first went there, there were two cars in the entire congregation. And about 100 people on Sunday mornings and Sunday nights, with perhaps 75 on Wednesday nights.

I'll never forget Deacon Douse .. he was in his 70's then, lived perhaps 2 miles away, and walked to church for all services. It was fairly steep all the way.

I often said that if I could bundle up our entire church in Pelham and take them to Red Hills, they'd learn a lot by the experience; if, however, I bundled up the folks at Red Hills and brought them to Pelham, there wouldn't be much, constructive, here, for them to learn.

Aletheia said...

Bob,
Your words remind me of a mission trip to Haiti right after the earthquake-I was struck by how those with so little...had such a strong sense of community. Their sufferings, their joys, their everything, was shared, not in isolation as most Americans essentially live.
And again...even though they had so little...I remember never having seen cleaner, more patient people, sitting for hours in the heat waiting to be seen at the medical clinic I worked at...dressed in Sunday church clothes, even though they often had medical conditions that would leave most of us down for the count. Yet, we were told...they dressed so...to honor us!
btw-I live up the road from you, outside of Huntsville :-)

Anonymous said...

Wow.
It seems your posts often correspond to events happening in our part of the world. (East Asia)
Just learned this week that some local believers have been taken into custody and questioned. The foreigners have had computers confiscated; the work compromised.
Please pr for these folks.
These are our brothers and sisters in the faith and they are right now under persecution.
Jen

Anonymous said...

If Greece was Western, why does Huntington's Clash consider it part of the Islamosoviet block? Greek religion begat Islam and Communism because it rejects Original Sin. Fascist Sparta farmed Sicily and so begat Rome, but democratic Athens farmed Scythia and so begat Moscow. Westernism is the Carolignian idea of the Three Reichs: Charlemegne, Napoleon and Hitler. Who else promotes it but Pat Buchanan, protege of nazi collaborator Fr Coughlin.

Headless Unicorn Guy said...

Amen!

We do have it soft.

We are spoiled rotten. But that they may all change in the not-too distant future. -- Steve Martin


Be careful what you wish for. You might get it. Without a Rapture to beam you up before it personally happens to you.

As for "spoiled rotten Americans", do you remember the editorial pages from Seventies-era Guns & Ammo or Eighties-era Soldier of Fortune? They went on at great length and apocalyptic tone about pretty much the same thing. Much like that urban legend "Communist Rules of Revolution" which ended every paragraph/talking point with "Destroy their Ruggedness."

Andrew Cairns said...

Hey Victorious, I used to worry about two things. One, that because I wasn't suffering overt persecution, I wasn't serving Jesus Christ adequately and: Two, that if "real" persecution came my way I would fold like the daily paper and deny my saviour quicker than Peter. I now know that real persecution comes in many many ways and is not just restricted to physical torture and imprisonment. Every day I fight sin, particularly in my own head, my thoughts. It's real persecution at times. Ever been rejected by a coworker for your stand for Jesus? Thats persecution too. However, in true fashion our Lord has it all covered.
1Cor 10:13
Our beloved Lord has promised never to send us more than we can bear, right?
I think too, that we have to be careful not to be too hasty when consigning New Testament scripture to what can be a dusty cupboard of historical context. It was as divinely written as much for us as any first century observer.