Dear church,

Being willing to suffer for righteousness’ sake is part of the Christian life. Every one of us is expected to be ready for those times when we may have to suffer for doing good – that is, for doing the things of God. We might, indeed, face suffering as a result of our obedience to Jesus Christ.

“But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed.” Peter wrote that, perhaps remembering the words of Jesus. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).

Some of us don’t like to suffer. We try to avoid it. We might be tempted to move away from obedience to Jesus in order to avoid suffering.

But what kind of suffering do Christians in America face? How is this even possible in the land of the free and the home of the brave?

The suffering we might face is mostly social in nature. The government is increasingly dismissive of religious rights in America, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it hasn’t yet resulted in widespread persecution. I still don’t know of very many Christians (or any?) who have been thrown in jail for following their faith. Some Christians are getting sued for following their consciences, but still is pretty rare.

And so our “suffering” is mostly a kind of social suffering.

A Christian might be ostracized for his or her faith. A Christian might be told he is being anti-science by believing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. A Christian might be told she’s unreasonable and even mean-spirited for not agreeing to some of our culture’s moral standards. This creates a kind of social suffering that some of us would rather avoid.

There can be a tremendous pressure to bend to the desires and the mindset of our co-workers and friends in the world. And many Christians do bend. In fact, some Christians bend away from Christ and begin to criticize his church for the sake of pleasing the world. This is an avoidance of social suffering.

Christians in other parts of the world probably would chuckle at this. They might even wonder about the commitment we actually have to Christ.

Think about these things today. You aren’t going to get thrown in jail for your faith. That’s good! But you may be made fun of or called bad names because of your faith – and maybe even by people who are close to you (like your neighbors and friends). Are you OK with that?

Chris

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