Proof and Suffering
Two quick thoughts for today:
vv. 38-39: Gamaliel makes an interesting statement. I don’t think that he’s necessarily making a prophecy here, but I think what he says is wise and true, as obviously the rest of the council also did. Taking his statement as a true statement, we have some very compelling evidence for Christianity. Think about it: an “illegitimate child” from a small town in the boonies of the Roman Empire dies, and a movement starts that spreads His message and resurrection to the ends of the earth using love, not violence to spread it. Could this be possible if it were not true and not of God? It certainly seems unlikely.
vv. 40-41: The disciples are beaten. How do they respond? They REJOICE that they are counted WORTHY to suffer as Jesus did. Jesus said not to be surprised: the world hated Him and will therefore hate us. The early Christians believed this. Do we? I think that overall, I would characterize Christians in America as whiny. We don’t take suffering well. We want our money and our nice churches and our rights. It’s really no wonder that we’ve lost most of our ability to change our culture – we’ve become almost identical to it. Where is the Christian who will suffer joyfully? Where is the Christian willing to die for Jesus? Where is the Christian who will share Jesus unashamed of His name? I think (and I can back this up pretty well from the history of the Church) that the decline of Christianity in America has less to do with militant atheists and liberals than it does with Christians who are comfortable being comfortable. Historically, when Christianity gets comfortable it falls asleep and merges with the existing culture. However, when the Church is persecuted and suffers as Jesus did, it spreads very quickly. Tertullian said his famous quote in his Apology to the emperor: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” So what can we do? I’m not advocating idiocy and doing things simply in order to be persecuted, but I AM advocating that we joyfully and unashamedly proclaim Jesus constantly, and take the consequences for that. Make no mistake: most likely people will get upset, call you a bigot, and a lot of other things. Take it joyfully, thankful to be counted worthy to suffer as Jesus did.