Called to Worship – Issue #4
by Phil Mershon
How do you respond when people attack you? If you were giving a heartfelt lecture or sermon, what would you do if the local leaders stopped you mid-sentence and threatened to kill you?
Many Christian pastors today live in danger of imprisonment or death for faithfully preaching the Gospel. In fact, there were more martyrs during the 20th century than in the rest of church history. (ee Voice of the Martyrs for daily examples). For most Western pastors, however, we can’t relate to Jeremiah’s persecution in Jeremiah 26.
Jeremiah faithfully delivered God’s call to repentance for decades, telling the people that Jerusalem and all the people would be destroyed—unless they repent. Instead of hearing God’s loving rebuke, the leaders sought to quiet Jeremiah. I guess they preferred silencing the messenger versus hearing the message.
Jesus told his disciples, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus understood that the call of the Gospel, while good news, would cause his messengers to be received as blasphemers and traitors.
I don’t like pain. Too many times I’ve avoided speaking the truth for fear of rejection and conflict. I’m glad Jeremiah was willing to faithfully deliver God’s message, regardless of personal consequence. Even more so, I’m grateful that Jesus fulfilled his mission.
Jesus came speaking words of life, but to the religious establishment they were words of death. He threatened the entire way of life for the religious elite. If we’re honest, the Gospel requires death before we find life. We must die to our impotent attempts to save ourselves before we can embrace God’s free gift of salvation. Death isn’t easy, but sometimes necessary.
Jesus faced the ultimate in persecution for declaring God’s life-giving message. He was wrongly accused, beaten and killed for the sins of another. He willingly endured this because he saw God’s greater purpose – our redemption.
Faithfully preaching and living the Gospel will inevitably put us in the fire. While some will hear the message of hope, others will feel threatened. They will seek to silence the messenger so they don’t have to hear the message.
As for me, I’m finding it’s better to be silenced than to remain silent.
Jesus. Thank you for suffering and enduring wrongful persecution. Thank you for your promise to be with us. Give us courage to stand for what is right and to die to ourselves so that we might find life. We pray it for your glory. Amen.
How about you? How do you respond to the threat of persecution? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.