That’s what I’d say.
It mustn’t be easy being in the hot seat. To feel the weight of responsibility to preach the Gospel. To make a public stand for God. Only to be torn down by Christians and non-Christians alike.
In a world where there is opposition to the message of love and redemption found in Jesus, it takes courage to say we are all going to perish if we do not turn and trust in Him.
It’s a radical and offensive message. It is also a message I believe I needed to hear.
Thankfully we are still living in a country where people can freely read the Bible together, to go to church, and do good works in Jesus’ name. But the subtle and not so subtle persecution remains.
I know, because I was once part of that persecution. I thought Christians were deluded and to be pitied at best. I thought they were hypocrites as I politely chatted to them. I would see the dramatic fall of Christian leaders and secretly gloat because I was better than those people who lauded “goodness” over me.
I am eating humble pie now. Especially when these very people welcomed me with open arms and did not count my actions against me when I came to know the real Jesus.
In other parts of the world, Christians are tortured, jailed and killed for their faith. According to the Voice of the Martyrs, more than 50 countries around the world persecute Christians. More than 10,000 are killed every year for their faith. Thousands are in jail.
I can only hope that if I were in their shoes, I would not cave under such pressure. But I am quietly grateful I am living in Australia.
In a world that is hostile to the message of Jesus Christ, I am thankful for those who are unashamedly preaching His message of love and redemption in our Churches. It is their faithfulness to the Gospel and their unswerving dedication to scripture that has led me back to Christ.
And it is faith that has brought me a sense of purpose and deepened my desire for good works. Not because I am good, but because I love a God who commands me to love Him and love my neighbour. Even when I don’t want to.
Rep. Joe Kennedy highlighted the importance of this in a speech at a gathering of American Christian leaders last year.
Throughout the Gospel, we are called on to acknowledge the humanity of those who are suffering, impoverished, or oppressed. Matthew summons us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, and comfort the afflicted. Luke tells us of the Good Samaritan’s gentle mercy, kneeling beside his bleeding neighbor on the road to Jericho while others simply passed by.
I wonder if many pastors would look at my longing for a just world and despair. I wonder if they would see my desire to call out need and advocate for the poor and say I am getting sidetracked from the main game — of proclaiming Christ crucified.
This world is only going to get worse until Judgement Day, and here I am faffing around asking people to put a band-aid on the gaping wound of our own sinfulness that only Jesus can cure.
Maybe that’s true.
I am fully aware that writing press releases and letters to editors about the injustices of this world is far from the message of Grace that is found at the Cross. That an occasional tin or two of beans for the food basket that was once in our Church foyer for the poor does little to advance the Gospel.
But it is His message that keeps me going when all hope seems lost. When I see people who are already struggling being told they must endure their situation indefinitely. When people who are barely surviving their current challenges, have more hurdles placed before them. When I feel powerless to help.
It prods me to care for my gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist, refugee, migrant, black, brown, white, yellow, young, old, rich, poor neighbours.
Not because I am good. But because I’ve learned from these pastors that God is good, that He values every one of us and that my life has been bought at a high cost.
I am the beneficiary of your faithful preaching that encourages, corrects and rebukes me to love God and love my neighbour.
And yes, if the opportunity arises, and I am asked why I do what I do, I will tell them it’s because Jesus loved me and died for my sins. Because my life is no longer my own to squander.
Heaven is a wonderful, incredible bonus. And I cannot wait to see the brokenness of this world restored; to worship God in His presence with you all.
Thank you for fighting the good fight.