NIV Acts 14:19 Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead.
It has never been easy to be a follower of Jesus. There have always been those who have tried to stop the influence of the impact of the incarnation (both human and demonic). Jesus himself warn those who would follow him that (Luke 21:12) they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name.
In another of the gospels Jesus says: (John 15:20-21) Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.
Then there is the world of the North American Christians. We have freedom of religion. We have prosperity. We have options and choices and a church market that works to meet our needs. Doesn’t seem like it is so difficult. Maybe a person risks being called a Jesus Freak or a Bible Thumper if the talk about their faith at the office or any other place outside of church but that is about the greatest “persecution” we face. Isn’t it?
Jesus told a parable about a rich man and a man named Lazarus (Luke 16). In this parable it is the rich man, the one who has it easy in life that ends up suffering the most. The pop theology of that time would have said that the rich man was blessed by God. He was not. I wonder if the principalities and powers that have sought to stop Jesus, prevent his influence, eradicate his followers and destroy his church has decided to take the parable to heart. What if the worst form of persecution is to be made content and irrelevant? In the book of Revelation there is a pronouncement made against a particular church. The Scripture states: (Revelation 3:15-17) I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm– neither hot nor cold– I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
Lent calls us to listen carefully to the words of our Lord. It is a time to repent (change directions) when we have been headed the wrong way. It is a time to be penitent when we awake to our sins, our errors, our wrong choices. We need to believe the words of our Lord. Either Jesus is wrong about what he said we would face or else we have allowed a great deception and delusion set us up for something far worse than being stoned by an angry crowd.
Pray for awareness. Seek what we should be seeking.