There is a general rule across the world that killing is bad. Some will say that there are those who perhaps deserve to die, usually due to atrocities that they have committed against innocent people, but for the most part humans agree that it is wrong to kill another human, There are those who reject the Christian faith based on the fact that whilst it clearly tells us not to kill, the Old Testament is full of people doing just that.
In the New Testament, just after Jesus returned to heaven, what we now call the church came under tremendous persecution, and a number of believers were killed. The Gospel is deeply offensive to those who do not believe, and sometimes people are killed for their faith.
Over the centuries since then, at least in the Western world it has become significantly less common to die as a result of our beliefs, whatever they might be. Churches have become safe places to be found, as over time hard fought freedoms have been won that ensure that what we do regularly on a Sunday morning is legal. There is even a recognised, tolerated if not fully accepted branch of the church that is expected to take the lead in performing religious acts at key points in the calendar. The country accepts this version of Christianity because it is safe. It doesn’t challenge the norm or expect people to change significantly. It is often the subject of comedy, at least here in the United Kingdom.
We celebrate this freedom and it is right that we do so.
There are some parts of the world where that freedom doesn’t exist. There are parts of the world where people don’t just ‘pop along to a church’ to check it out. Seeker services are unheard of. You are either totally in, or totally out. If you are in, you must accept that there are significant risks involved. In China, arrest and imprisonment are a daily concern. This weekend in Sri Lanka the risk was death. Death, simply for going to church on an Easter Sunday.
Even before the atrocities of this weekend I have been challenged about what it means to go to church for me. It is so relatively simple in this country to admit that you are a Christian. There may be a bit of teasing and name calling. The worst that might happen is that so-called friends would stop asking you to go out with them because “you wouldn’t be interested.”
Church is safe. Christianity is safe. That makes it easy to belong. It makes it easy to do the bits of Christianity that fit with our schedules, families and work patterns. We can say yes to some things, and no to others without risk.
The question I have been asking myself is “would I go to church if the odds were I would be arrested that day and thrown in prison without legal representation? How about if the chances were that I would be beaten up as I walked home afterwards with my children? If simply going to worship meant that I may not make it home to loved ones?” There are countries where this is a daily question. If these are the risks, you have to be sure that they are risks worth taking. Christians in countries such as China, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran are sure. Am I? Really?
I’d like to say yes. I’d like to say that I was throwing everything into this. I’d like to say that I am 100% committed. My heart wants to mean it. I wonder if my life proves what I say I believe?
He is the Pearl of great price. The problem is that in the West we haven’t had to pay very much to buy it. We have become apathetic and comfortable in our nice seats, 1 ½ hr services that fit nicely into our Sunday mornings, before the roast is cooked.
I am utterly convinced that if we really do give 100%, we will see 1st Century church growth with thousands coming to faith each day. We will see the sick healed simply by walking past them. We will see access to governments and social change making a difference in the lives of the neediest in our society. The dead will rise at our command.
But it won’t happen all the time we are happy to feel safe. If we are content with the way things are, nothing will change. If, however we really are ready to risk it all, anything can happen.