Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Persecution = Discipleship?

I'm looking for a source that this is paraphrased from

(paraphrased) The badge of discipleship is persecution, if u are not being persecuted u haven't been transformed by the Gospel- J.Wesley

This was posted by a friend on his facebook page a few days ago. This is a young man that I love and respect but I had an instant check in my spirit when I read this. As I pondered what it was about this quote that bothered me so much I realized that it was this idea that true discipleship ALWAYS engenders persecution. Could this be the reason for the absurd persecution complex that the American church continually seems to fall prey to? If it is being taught that persecution is the mark of who is and who is not a disciple then of course the devout are going to be seeing persecution everywhere. Yet the considerable contributions of the Wesley's aside this is NOT what our Lord said the badge of our discipleship was nor should be.

Yes our Lord says that we will be persecuted and hated in this world...but He NEVER says that is how the world (or we) will know we are his disciples. In John 13:34-35 He says: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

When we make our suffering and persecution the mark of our discipleship we set up the very us vs them dynamic we see in modern American Christianity that says that how much we are hated is the best measure of our so called orthodoxy. Is this not what we see today? Christians PROUD of being hated? Christians seeing being hated not as an indication of how badly we have missed the mark of showing Christ to the world but rather as an indication of how correct we are in our theology? God help us!

I have been concerned about the effect of this persecution complex on our collective psyche for some time now. I am catching glimpses of where it logically leads and it is not somewhere I want to see us go. Did this persecution complex + a climate of increasingly violent political rhetoric = the Tuscon tragedy in January? Is it not what is being used to motivate the extremism of the Tea Party elected officials in their actions in recent days? Is it not what allows some of us to believe that "speaking the truth in love" = telling our LGBT brothers and sisters that they are "incompatible with Christian teaching"? If we truly believe that how much we are "persecuted" is the measure of our "success" as disciples then does it not stand to reason that we will act in ways that engender "persecution"?

How might we act differently if we took to heart our Savior's command? How might we treat others if we truly believed that our discipleship should be measured, can ONLY be measured, by our LOVE? Would we not be on the front lines of defense where oppression of others happens rather than leading the charge for that oppression? It seems so simple to me. So obvious. What we believe to be the mark of a true disciple is what we are going to be aiming at. Consciously or not. We've raised up a generation with the idea that we are at war with our culture rather than with the idea that we are to be about loving others and through that love allowing God to redeem our culture.

The world, the one that we seem so quick to write off as condemned,is what John 3:16 says that God so LOVED that He sent his Only Begotten Son and it goes on to specifically say that He didn't send His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved. Thy kingdom come on EARTH...have we forgotten that? Why do we think we can transform the world through our "orthodox" interpretation of scripture and our fixation on "moral" behavior? How do we not see that its all about LOVE. Its all about GRACE. It always has been.

Persecution is a function of living in a fallen world. It is not a goal to seek after as a measure of whether or not we have been transformed by the gospel. The Lord himself said that the measure of that is LOVE. May thus be said of all of us who follow Christ.

1 comment:

  1. There's SO much truth in this. I realized several years ago that the popular "Last Days" teachings were priming us to consider ourselves persecuted over the least little thing. This has produced that persecution complex, and, as a result, an aggressive and defensive attitude. Sadly, the "church" is persecuting those who say LOVE is the key. We may not agree on everything, but LOVE has to be the bottom line.

    We are NOT supposed to go around FIGHTING for our rights or defending ourselves. That is the exact opposite of what Jesus and Paul taught. God help us to be more like Jesus!