THE PERSECUTION TO COME
“Then they will deliver you to affliction, and they will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name. And then many will stumble and will betray each other, and will hate each other.”
This passage shows the uncompromising honesty of Jesus. He never promised his disciples an easy way; he promised them death and suffering and persecution. There is a sense in which a real Church will always be a persecuted Church, so long as it exists in a world which is not a Christian world. Whence comes that persecution?
(i) Christ offers a new loyalty; and again and again he declared that this new loyalty must surpass all earthly ties. The greatest ground of hatred in the days of the early Church was the fact that Christianity split homes and families, when one member decided for Christ and the others did not. The Christian is one who is pledged to give Jesus Christ the first place in his life–and many a human clash is liable to result from that.
(ii) Christ offers a new standard. There are customs and practices and ways of life which may be all right for the world, but which are far from being all right for the Christian. For many people the difficulty about Christianity is that it is a judgment upon themselves and upon their way of life in their business or in their personal relationships. The awkward thing about Christianity is that anyone who does not wish to be changed is bound to hate it and resent it.
(iii) The Christian, if he is a true Christian, introduces into the world a new example. There is a daily beauty in his life which makes the life of others ugly. The Christian is the light of the world, not in the sense that he criticizes and condemns others, but in the sense that he demonstrates in himself the beauty of the Christ-filled life and therefore the ugliness of the Christless life.
(iv) This is all to say that Christianity brings a new conscience into life. Neither the individual Christian nor the Christian Church can ever know anything of a cowardly concealment or a cowardly silence. The Church and the individual Christian must at all times constitute the conscience of Christianity–and it is characteristic of men that there are many times when they would wish to silence conscience.
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