I read Luke chapter 9 this morning where Jesus reacts to three people who claim they would “follow him” anywhere. A modern mindset would probably expect a reaction along the lines of “Great you have you, buddy!” Jesus instead lays each one of them bare and exposes where their true hearts lie — whether it is in comfort or loyalty to family or something else.
As I continued my morning routine I thought on this. It struck me that the first one in particular chafes against an American mind.
Luke 9:57-58: As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
Jesus doesn’t tell this man that following him will be easy or comfortable. Instead he says the very opposite. You may have no home. You may have no family. In John 16:33, Jesus promises his disciples, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
That’s a stark contrast to many of the supposedly Christian messages you see and hear these days on television, in “Christian” books and in many churches. The false gospel that God just wants you to be happy, or healthy or financially comfortable or improve your life here on Earth. Such messages appeal to our intrinsically selfish human hearts, especially here in America where we love to succeed. Success, even wealth, isn’t an evil thing in and of itself. But it certainly isn’t a promise from God.
Yet, this mindset that God wants us to have enjoyable earthly lives is so pervasive in American Christianity that I think even true believers subconsciously adopt it at times. Myself included. Without a conscious and prayerful effort to seek holiness over happiness, it is so easy to accept.
Writing about the persecuted church is a humbling experience, at least when I let it affect me. Knowing that many Christians meet secretly and illegally and at great risk around the world, and that others are beaten, tortured and killed because they claim the cross shows me what the Bible means when it promises trouble, hatred and persecution to Christians. And I am put to shame because I don’t know if or how I could endure such things. I pray I would if I had to.
In America, we are free from persecution. Yes, there are occasional hostilities and I do think persecution will come to us one day, but we know nothing like the suffering of our brothers and sisters around the world. By and large, we are a church of wimps.
The words of an Egyptian believer, I recently spoke with, ring loud in my ears and compel self-examination. I asked him how he would ask us to pray for Christians in Egypt. He told me not to pray that persecution would end, but instead pray that Christians would remain bold and courageous and continue sharing the true gospel.