Sunday, October 11, 2015

Mulling it Over

The spotlight has dimmed, somewhat, on the recent shootings in Oregon.  Funerals have taken place.  News trucks have started to leave.  Families are trying to make sense of it all and get a handle on their shock and grief.  I'm sure the community is stunned by the reality that something like that could have happened there.....as any community would.  I feel certain that there are students and teachers who will struggle to feel even the slightest bit secure whenever they return to school. 

The evil inside of one person can affect a lot of lives.  Physically, emotionally....changed forever.  It's a tragedy for sure.  One that's starting to become too familiar. 

I've been thinking about the reports that the victims' religious beliefs may have played a role in whether they were shot fatally or just wounded.  Whether that was the sole motive or not, we can't deny that our world is becoming increasingly hostile toward Christianity and it seems like we, Christians, may need to stop and examine the depth of our commitments.  We've always felt pretty secure in our country as followers of Jesus.  Like we were, by far, part of the popular majority here.  Persecution was something that happened in places that were far away and to people who spoke different languages and lived in much less civilized societies.  As long as there was an ocean or two separating us from all of that or, even better, a few centuries between us and the word, persecution, we felt pretty safe.   

Current events may have us now mulling over a question that we've not had to think much about in our lifetime......what am I willing to die for?

Naturally, most mothers would say their children would be the very first thing to pop into their minds.  There is no doubt that if someone were threatening one of our children or grandchildren or if they stood in the path of grave danger, our self preservation instinct would fly out the window and we'd jump in front of a car, a bullet, or whatever assaulting object necessary to spare their lives.  We wouldn't even have to think about it. 

A soldier is committed to offering up his life for his country if necessary.  When he signs the dotted line, he's not sure if he'll be sent to war at some point and never return.  He fully understands that it could come to that and he signs off on it.

When a policeman puts on his uniform, he is essentially agreeing to lay himself down for the people he serves to protect.  He knows there will be dangerous situations and people may wish to do him harm and when he reports to work, he's agreeing to take that risk.    

Since the Oregon incident, I've been thinking about people who've died for their faith......for their love for Jesus throughout the centuries.  All but one of the disciples (not counting Judas) are thought to have met ends that weren't pleasant in the name of their faith......stoning, spearing, beheading, beating, crucifixion.  Missionaries have been killed through the ages at the hands of those they wanted to save.....or died from the harsh conditions of the areas where they served.  Christians all across the Middle East are currently being tortured and slaughtered.  Who would have guessed that regular students attending a writing class at a college in our cocoon of religious freedom could join the age old list?

Whether from the first century or the first of this October, the people who have chosen death over renouncing their faith....those who have chosen the great commission over comfort and security.....they've each surely had the same convictions living inside of them. 

-A firm belief that this life is nothing to cling to....that things of this world should be handled with loose fingers and as good as it seems, sometimes, it's all transient and not worth placing all your chips down on.  And that the temporary should never be traded for the eternal.  "What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?  Is anything worth more than your soul?"   Matthew 16:26 

-And when Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Matthew 16:24... that no one knows exactly what that will mean for them, personally, but that the reward of being with Him will be greater than any cost that is required.  Some crosses will be heavier than others, but like Jesus told Peter when asked about John's fate.....we shouldn't worry about that.  Our job is to carry our cross to the finish just like He did.  

-And that no matter what life brings, He has promised to be with us and give us what we need to get through it.  "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Romans 8:38-39       

No one would be jumping up and down and raising their hands to be first in any martyr line.  We may be willing to lay our lives down, but I doubt there would be much pushing or shoving or cutting in line.  Even Peter, one of the most bold witnesses for Jesus, got cold feet the night before Christ was crucified.  My very loose translation of his response to being asked if he was a friend of Jesus.....I don't know him....never seen him....don't know what you crazy people are talking about....you've all lost your minds.  I think we can assume that Peter wasn't eager to die that night.  He was just plain scared. 

Of course, we know after the resurrection, Peter was on Jesus' list of people He wanted to see......not to scold him or shame him or express his disappointment, but to encourage him and prop him back up.  He gave him a job to do.  A big job.  He pepped him up, turned him around, and sent him back out onto the field.......like a coach does with his quarterback after a devastating fumble.  We know that his life ultimately ended in martyrdom.....asking to be crucified upside down as he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as his Savior, but, oh, what he accomplished before his death.   

I guess we've all felt like Peter at times.  We love God.......oh, how we love Him.  But we watch the news and see the articles with the horrific images of what's going down across the world right now and we feel scared.  And that's ok.  I think it's normal to feel that way.     

Most of us will not die for our faith....maybe not even one of us.  But, maybe it does cause us to consider....what am I willing to die for? 

And while we're at it...

Maybe we should think about.....What am I willing to live for?


Hope y'all have an unusually good Monday!







   


      



   

 



 

 

                                        

3 comments:

  1. A thought provoking post in these days of religion strife, especially for Christians. Why is there so much silence about it, here and across the world? Living my life, I'm far from perfect, but opening the Book has helped remedied that quite a bit. Keep up the good work Joni. Hugs, Kathleen in Az

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  2. We've talked about these things too.

    These are good truths that you have written about Joni.

    Thanks
    Deanna

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  3. Yes. Thanks for the self-examination.

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