This post is also available as a podcast: https://anchor.fm/teague-mckamey/episodes/The-Insanity-of-God-e1lmr3e
In my last post, I talked about The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken. Nik ends the book by talking about lessons learned from years of interviewing persecuted Christians. He makes some statements that are provocative but important for people to hear, especially in places that enjoy religious freedom. I thought I would just quote them below as food for thought:
What we discovered—through God’s grace and with the help of hundreds of faithful people—wasn’t so much a strategy, a method, or a plan. Rather, it was a Person. We found Jesus—and we found that Jesus is very much alive and well in the twenty-first century. Jesus is revealed in the lives and words and resurrection faith of believers in persecution. These believers don’t just live for Jesus, they live with Jesus every day.
For decades now, many concerned western believers have sought to rescue their spiritual brothers and sisters around the world who suffer because they choose to follow Jesus. Yet our pilgrimage among house churches in persecution convinced us that God may actually want to use them to save us from the often debilitating, and sometimes spiritually-fatal, effects of our watered-down, powerless western faith.
For decades the western church has been taught to pray and work for an end to the persecution of fellow believers around the world. We enlist our congregations, our denominations, and even our governments to speak out and pressure oppressive regimes in hostile nations to end discrimination. Sometimes we even demand that the persecutors be punished. We seem to forget that Jesus Himself promised that the world would reject and mistreat His faithful followers just as it rejected Him. Could it be that the only way that Almighty God could actually answer prayers asking Him to end the persecution of believers . . . would be to stop people from accepting Christ as their Lord and Savior? If people stopped accepting Christ as Lord and Savior . . . persecution would end immediately. That would be the only way to completely end persecution. It sounds like a ridiculous question, but should we really be asking God for the end of persecution? By doing that, we might unknowingly be asking that people not come to faith in Christ! [We] have seldom encountered a mature believer living in persecution who asked us to pray that their persecution would cease. We have never heard that request. Rather, believers in persecution ask us to pray that “they would be faithful and obedient through their persecution and suffering.”
Believers in persecution taught us another important truth. The freedom to believe and witness has nothing to do with the government or political system. The freedom to believe and witness has nothing to do with the civil and political rights that might or might not be present. This is one of the most important lessons that we learned from believers in persecution: They (and you and I) are just as free to share Jesus today in Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, Communist countries as you and I are in America. It isn’t a matter of political freedom. It is a simply matter of obedience. The price for obedience might be different in different places—but it is always possible to obey Christ’s call to make disciples. Every believer—in every place—is always free to make that choice.
If we spend our lives so afraid of suffering, so averse to sacrifice, that we avoid even the risk of persecution or crucifixion, then we might never discover the true wonder, joy and power of a resurrection faith. Ironically, avoiding suffering could be the very thing that prevents us from partnering deeply with the Risen Jesus.