Another school shooting; this time in Oregon. And with an apparent emphasis toward professing Christians.
ISIS beheading people who profess faith in Christ.
SCOTUS supposedly making gay “marriage” legal.
Planned Parenthood selling body parts from the children they murder.
Is increasing suffering, persecution, and unrighteousness in the world a sign that the Church has failed in her mission?
Not so fast.
God the Father promised the Son that He would give the nations to Him as an inheritance (Psalm 1). And Jesus made that request just prior to His Ascension when He gave the Great Commission:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:19-20 ESV)
Jesus didn’t forget to ask! And since He asked, we who are in Christ are His. We’ve been bought with a price, we are not our own (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23)! So what does that mean for us?
That means that we have a duty to Christ’s command to make disciples as we go about our lives.
You see, I believe that as unrighteousness seemingly increases in the world, leading to further persecution of the Church, we are presented with opportunities to spread the Good News!
The Church has always thrived during times of great persecution. Have there been those who in the face of persecution denied Christ? Of course there were. But I believe this was used by the Holy Spirit to separate the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats.
Look at this brief video which shows the spread of the Gospel throughout the world since the time of the Apostles:
There are frames in this video that break my heart because there are apparent decreases. But almost immediately after each decrease, there is a massive swell in the spread of Christianity!
I believe this is one of the reasons James said,
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4 ESV)
And why Peter wrote,
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And
‘If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?’
Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”
(1 Peter 4:12-19 ESV)
Paul told Timothy,
“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Timothy 3:12-13 ESV)
Jesus himself assured us,
“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 ESV)
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” (John 15:18-21 ESV)
And unsurprisingly Jesus was right. His Apostles suffered persecution for their testimony. But a strange thing happened—they rejoiced (Acts 5:41)! And not only that, but they continued to preach the Gospel of Christ! And the Church grew as a result (Acts 6:1).
When we see the darkness in the hearts of men being laid out on full display for all to see, how must we respond? Be being light. By being salt. By sharing the truly good news about what Christ has accomplished.
Has the Church failed? In some ways. But has Christ failed? No. He is ruling and reigning at the right hand of the Father even now until He has made all His enemies a footstool. The last enemy to be defeated is death.
Make us faithful witnesses, Lord. Give us boldness in the Holy Spirit. For your glory. Amen!