Discipleship Through Tough Political Times
~By: Sylvia Reynolds-Blakely~
[Jesus speaking] “Don’t think that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came to bring trouble, not peace.” Matthew 10:34 (CEV)
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…”
So begins the novel A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, which was published in 1859. It sounds eerily applicable to 2020 and our current state of affairs, doesn’t it?
But over 2000 years ago, Christ warned us of the deadly and despotic days to come when brothers and sisters will betray one another and have each other put to death. Parents will betray their own children, and children will turn against their parents and have them killed (Matthew 10:21). For the cause of Christ and the Gospel, scores of people would be bound, hauled into court, dragged before rulers, and summarily killed.
What can we as Christians say to this revelation that was and is and is to come? Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:19-21 that any words in our defense will come at the appointed time from Holy Spirit. In verse 22b, He reminds us that if we remain faithful until the end, we will be saved. This is a potent message for a tumultuous time. Christ reminds us that belief in Him may produce hate in others who do not know Him (Matthew 10:22a), meaning, in my mind, that believers will always live in tough times. He says that believers may have to flee from one town to the next because of mistreatment by unbelievers (Matthew 10:23). I know this sounds so dramatic from the comfort of our own homes and computer screens, but take a moment to google ‘Christian persecutions,’ and you will see how relevant this topic was in the early days of Christendom and how it still is today.
Even amongst believers, and seemingly in our own backyard, there seems to be a debate roiling between “liberal” Christians and “conservative” Christians. Is that even a real thing? As if we don’t face enough challenges from non-believers! Our Lord and Savior’s actions and words speak plainly enough that all should recognize their strength and power, with the only appropriate label being “Christ follower.”
To be clear, the God we serve is bigger than any political landscape, ruler, principality, or person, for “the government shall be upon HIS [Jesus] shoulder” (Isaiah 9:6), not the other way around. Our God is not boxed in by geographic location or dogma since He is omnipresent and omniscient. We are not to fear anyone (Matt. 10:26), but love and pray for everyone, most especially our enemies (Matt. 5:43-45).
Christ did not seek permission nor expect protection from either the political or religious rulers of His time. His message was not designed to fortify, but to break strongholds. He crossed cultural, educational and political lines to speak His message, and He expected His disciples (us) to do the same. He came humbly as a working class man but, make no mistake, He walked as the Son of God, and those who feared Him knew it! (Luke 4:41) He spoke out and acted against injustice for the mentally and spiritually afflicted, the physically lame, the morally corrupt, law enforcement, widows, and especially children.
Remember that Herod had male babies and toddlers up to two years old in and around Bethlehem killed for fear of the power of the coming Messiah based upon what three visiting strangers told him. Can you imagine the political turmoil those assassinations caused in Bethlehem and Jerusalem? How many people later connected the dots that the fear of the power of Jesus the Messiah was the reason Herod committed mass murder?
The spread of the Gospel will always be fraught with difficulties, so know that going in. But, thankfully, we have so many well-documented examples of how laborers for the cross fought through adversity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, that we have no reason to let hard political times soften our resolve. Continue to speak out for the people and issues Jesus spoke out for. Do not be afraid, and don’t be dismayed, for the Lord our God is fighting for you while you fight for Him (Isaiah 41:10). Represent Christ wherever you go and in whatever you do. Show people in a tangible way why your decision to follow Him (and not religious dogma or secular leaders) bears fruit that is good and that lasts.
Our battle language of love should be heard and felt around the world. Our weapons of praising, worshipping, preaching, teaching, and disciple-making will hit their marks and open hearts for God. Our armor of truth, justice, peace, faith, salvation, and the Word of God will be all the defense we need against the evil of this age and the age to come, so remain standing firm (Ephesians 6:10-17). Regardless of how seemingly tough the current political times are, keep the commandments (Matthew 19:17) and fulfill the Great Commission (Mark 16:15), and He is sure to be with us to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20).