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A No Brainer — Suffering for being a Christian

May 28, 2017

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Seventh Sunday of Easter                         Trinity Lutheran Church

28 May 2017                                               Murdock, NE

 

1 Peter 4:12-19; 5:6-9

 

Suffering. Sometimes you suffer because of bad choices you make. On the one hand the choices are really bad and they come with disastrous consequences. On the other hand there are times that you will endure suffering because you confess Christ. Christians suffer for being a Christian? Sure. That’s a no brainer. Even in America. Absolutely. The enemies of Christ and His church are baring their teeth. Their goal? Bully. Intimidate. Shut down. Eliminate. Eradicate. Depending on the enemy.

 

Confessing Christ – worshiping Christ – adoring Christ – regularly receiving Christ’s gifts in the divine service is costly. You may not get a job. You may lose your job. Your starting position on the team (some would consider that to be the most horrifying). You stand to lose your reputation. Friends. Family. Maybe even your life. In 2010 an elderly bishop told newly ordained pastors in the church: “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die as a martyr in the public square.”[1]

 

This should not come as any surprise to any of us.  Christians suffer – FOR BEING CHRISTIANS.  The blessed apostle Peter preached it a long time ago.  So did Jesus (Luke 6:22-23, 26; see also Acts 14:22; 1 Thessalonians 3:4).  And the times haven’t changed.  So here is Peter’s timeless and true message for you today.

 

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering as though something strange were happening to you.”  To have Jesus’ name branded on you puts you in peril.  To confess Jesus as Lord brings you many enemies and sometimes some immense suffering.  Always has been the case.  There’s nothing new here!

 

Christians always face to possibility of being confronted with the mockery, insults, antagonism, discrimination, and persecution from the world that adamantly opposes Jesus and those who believe in Him.  I’ve mentioned them before. I’ll mention them again. Radical and fanatic atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Stephen Hawking would just as soon eliminate you Christ confessors from the face of the earth PDQ so that the world can achieve its potential. They have made many alliances, many coalitions and colluded to raise millions of dollars.

 

Why? It’s simple. They want to purge the planet of you dangerous simpletons. To them you Christ confessors are primitive, ugly, toxic, intolerant and bigoted!  You and your Christ on the cross have been standing in the way of a progressive worldwide utopia for way too long.  Christianity and Christians in particular are blamed for all the world’s ills, poverty, discrimination, name the phobia and Western civilization’s psychopathic tendencies such as believing that people are sinners and that there is a hell. Teaching children such things is tantamount to child abuse and should be criminalized. Of all the teachings in Christianity, the concept of God’s grace is arguably the most harmful, destructive, insulting, and psychologically crippling according to your enemies. After all, people should get what they deserve not what they don’t deserve.

 

Now, if these atheists have their way, you confessors of the Lord Jesus Christ will be systematically marginalized, demonized, arrested, institutionalized, imprisoned, Solzhenitsyn-ed, Siberia-ed, purged.

 

Then there is the prowling around like a roaring lion Satan looking for someone like you to devour and drag into forevermore hell.  The great red dragon hates the church.  He despises you because you are baptized and live from Christ’s own body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar.  Satan, the old evil foe, is on the prowl.  And he is after you.

 

And if that isn’t enough there is more.  You have your own sinful flesh that hangs around your neck.  Always tempting you to worship yourself. As if your words are divine.  Enticing you to forsake Jesus and to treat His Good Friday and Easter Sunday like nothings.  As if His death and resurrection are lies and that Jesus cannot be trusted.  So that you’ll just give up on Him and trust only in yourselves and your words.

 

So, “it is time” as Peter says, “to be self-controlled and alert … to stand firm in the faith.  When and if such suffering has come to you already, you are not alone.  Christians all over the world suffer because they bear the name of Jesus.  They lose their job.  They lose their family.  They lose their reputation.  They sometimes even lose their earthly life.  This is happening all over the world. One study by the Center for Studies on New Religions showed that nearly 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith in 2016 and that as many as 600 million were prevented from practicing their faith through intimidation, forced conversions, bodily harm or even death. Bearing Jesus’ name, confessing Him as Lord, and worshiping Him is risky and hazardous.

 

But do not despair.  And do not be ashamed.  There is no shame in suffering for your confession of Jesus! Notice what Peter says.  It is what he learned from Jesus Himself.  Jesus talked the same way.

 

When you suffer for being a Christian:  “rejoice.”  Yes, that’s right rejoice!  Jesus suffered.  And so do His disciples.  But Jesus rose from the dead and sits in glory at the Father’s right hand.  And so will you, His disciples.  You too will be raised in glory on the Last Day.  In Jesus and sharing in “the sufferings of Christ” you are “blessed.”   Suffering for being a Christian gives you the opportunity to:  “praise God.”   In addition, it teaches you, as Peter says to, “humble yourselves … under God’s mighty hand that he may lift you up in due time.”  Suffering for being a Christian, not for being a thief, murderer, criminal or meddler, BUT FOR BEING A DISCIPLE OF JESUS teaches you to “cast all your anxiety on God because he cares for you.”    Suffering for bearing Jesus’ name teaches Christians to “commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”  

 

In other words, suffering “according to God’s will” for bearing Jesus’ name teaches you to trust in Jesus all the more.  To strengthen your faith in Him! To simply be a beggar before Him!  To receive all that He gives in the way He gives His gifts. A hanger on!

 

The suffering doesn’t last forever.  While it lasts it is painful and real.  But it only lasts a “little while,” (1 Peter 5:10).  Just as the Father restored His Son to life and glory after much suffering, so too with you.  In the meantime Jesus Himself prays for you.  He intercedes for you.  That you do not fall but rather remain steadfast, strong, and firm in the true faith, no matter how much the world, the devil and your sinful flesh rage against you.  For Jesus is stronger still.  The world and Satan could not do Him in.  He will see to it through His words of promise – his promises of forgiveness and life eternal won for you by His suffering and death on the cross.

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

 

     [1] Cardinal Francis George.

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