He demands everything. He exposes everything.
Persecuted Church and Martha's Distraction both recently had posts about the persecution of Christians in Turkey. "Martha" linked to this letter that explains, in great detail, the martyrdom of three Christian men this past April. Be sure to scroll down to read it.
Reading the account of the horrible murder of these men, and the response from their communities, sickened and outraged me. Unfortunately, it is all too common in many areas around the world.
What had these men done that was so terrible? They had chosen to follow Jesus. They had turned away from Islam and, in so doing, had become outcasts within their own communities. They had not protested against the government, perpetrated violence against their neighbors, or even been disrespectful to people. They simply believed in Jesus.
Why did a simple religious belief fuel such hatred against these men?
Very simply, they were offended, deeply offended by the scandalous implications of Christianity. Whenever people encounter the gospel for the first time, there is a shock to the system. Without saying one word to people about their own lives and enumerating the various sins harbored in the confines of their souls, people can become angrily defensive. You cannot escape the implication and conviction that somehow, you have failed. You are wrong.
People don't like that. There is no more politically incorrect thing to do than to tell someone, in no uncertain terms, that they are flat-out, completely wrong about something--and not only are they wrong about what they are thinking, but they have acted badly and sinfully.
It's a hard pill to swallow.
Most Christians don't present the message of Christ in such stark, harsh language. The days of fire and brimstone have long since burnt out in most churches. However, even if the gospel is presented in a loving, gentle way, the effect is the same. To believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation implies that all the other ways are wrong.
Just as Adam and Eve tried to hide their nakedness from God, humanity is always scrambling to cover over their own unseemly parts. Removing the fig leaves that we have placed about us reveals us for what we really are. After all, who wants to be naked in front of everyone? Certainly not me.
Choosing Christ means forsaking everything else. If your allegiance is to Jesus, everything else must fall away. Cultural beliefs, family traditions, and community expectations all come far behind the single priority of serving Christ.
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and
children, his brother and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my
Jesus doesn't want us to "hate" our families in the sense of doing them harm. Yet, when we are faced with a weighty choice between what God wants from us and what other people wish for us to do, God must always come first. In the United States that isn't a problem. We might be mocked a little if we don't go party with our friends, or follow social norms, but we would rarely face true persecution.
In places hostile to Christianity, allegiance to Christ before all else is tantamount to sedition and considered subversive. After all, how can you control someone who answers only to God? In places where totalitarianism reigns, an unwillingness to sacrifice one's soul to the state in all things, marks a person as a possible revolutionary.
Jesus warned us of this dangerous reaction to the gospel.
All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
It would seem to set things up for an us vs. them mentality,but we always remember:
But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.
May God be with the families of these men. May He also help us to pray for those who have taken their lives.