In a Bible class recently we discussed Romans chapter 8:17, “and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” The point was well made that all of these wonderful adjectives (e.g., heirs, heirs of God, joint heirs) were conditional on us suffering with Him.
Then we spent a few minutes in class discussing persecution. A slide was presented that revealed Christian persecution in areas like northern Africa and many communist countries. The point was made that we don’t suffer much in America and class members gave possible reasons why (i.e., the founding fathers upheld many Christian principles, etc.). After the discussion we moved on to verses 18 and following…but my mind stayed on verse 17.
The passage says, “if indeed we suffer with Him,” but the reality is in America we try really hard in America to avoid suffering. The honest truth is we don’t like to get out of our comfort zones, and so we plan programs and activities that don’t require us to have hard conversations with the lost. The only time we really speak up is when people who share our beliefs and worldviews surround us. Many congregations spend a great deal of their annual budget on “internal” programs so that members don’t feel like they have to go out into the community and confront those who are lost.
So is the reason we are not suffering or being persecuted because we have chosen an easier path?
Over and over the Bible talks about Christians being persecuted and suffering. For instance, 2 Timothy 3:12 says, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Jesus spoke of persecution in His famous Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 5:10.
Spend a few minutes looking over passages like:
1 Peter 4:12-19
1 Peter 3:14
2 Corinthians 4:8-12
Is it possible the reason we don’t suffer persecution is because we do not speak up? Is it possible we have become such friends with the world that they do not hate us for our religious beliefs? Is it possible that we have stopped identifying sin to those we come in contact with? Is it possible that we don’t suffer because we avoid the hard conversations about the consequences of sin? Is it possible we don’t suffer persecution because our pulpits no longer speak out strongly on judgment and hell—but rather, they continuously proclaim love and grace? Is it possible that we aren’t persecuted because we expect the lost to come to us rather that us going out as we have been commanded?
I know that one day every knee will bow down and acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord. I pray that on that occasion many of us don’t find ourselves outside the body of Christ because we desired comfort over persecution.