My Way or His Cross

Rage is NOT an appropriate reaction to hostility for disciples of Jesus. His instructions about this issue contradicted the “wisdom of this age” and human experience. Nevertheless, responding in anger to violations of our political, civil, and individual “rights” only demonstrates how far many of us have strayed from his teachings and example.

The issue is not whether we have individual rights and liberties under man’s law, or whether democracy, autocracy, or monarchy is the best form of government. For those of us who would follow Jesus, the important question is - How are we to conduct ourselves under the political and societal structures in which we live?

Calvary - Photo by ThrowBack Graphics on Unsplash
[Photo by ThrowBack Graphics on Unsplash]

Every disciple is summoned to a life of obedience and self-sacrifice, though that life orientation is incompatible with one centered on our own needs, “rights,” and desires.

Consider the issue of persecution. If we become angry over mere verbal insults to our faith or lifestyle, how will we respond to serious persecution when it comes? Would we take to the streets in protest or riot against our critics and oppressors?

Jesus instructed his disciples to “rejoice and leap for joy” whenever “men hate you and ostracize you, and profane you, and spurn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man…for great is your reward in Heaven.” Reactions of this kind stand in stark contrast to our practice of lashing out at every insult or perceived infringement of our “rights” - (Matthew 5:10-12).

Jesus bequeathed us a real-world example of how to show mercy, especially to our enemies. In Gethsemane, an armed mob approached him, determined to arrest and haul him before the High Priest for questioning and prosecution. Peter reacted by cutting the ear off the servant of the High Priest.

If ever there was a man innocent of all charges, it was Jesus. Was this not an incident where violence committed in self-defense was justified? Did not the mob come to arrest the royal Messiah of Israel on trumped-up charges?

Jesus did the unexpected. He healed the man’s ear even though he was under no illusions about what was coming Not many days before this incident, he warned his disciples that he would be “betrayed to the chief priests and the scribes. And they will condemn him to death… and they shall mock him, and spit upon him, and scourge him, and kill him.”

THE APOSTLES


The disciples took his teachings to heart after his Resurrection. When Peter and the Apostles were hauled before the Sanhedrin, beaten, and ordered to cease preaching, they went their way “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.” Likewise, after being beaten and imprisoned for preaching the Gospel, Paul and Silas spent the night “praying and singing hymns to God” from their prison cell - (Acts 5:41, 16:23-25).

Jesus exhorted us to “love our enemies, to pray for them who persecute us,” and to extend mercy to every “enemy” who abuses us. Mercy shown to enemies is how we emulate God and become “perfect” as He is - (Matthew 5:38-48).

He was the only righteous man ever to live. If anyone deserved respect for his civil and political “rights,” Jesus did. Yet rather than be served, he came “to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many,” which he did by enduring an unjust death for his friends and his “enemies” alike. Conforming our lives to his example is how we become “great in the Kingdom of God” - (Matthew 20:28, Romans 5:10).

When beaten, and reviled before the High Priest, Jesus reviled not in return. While suffering on the Roman cross, he prayed that his Father would “forgive them, for they know not what they do” - (Matthew 27:39, Mark 15:32, Luke 23:34).

Scripture portrays persecution for his sake as something disciples should expect and endure. Not only so, but to suffer for Jesus is a great privilege and high honor for any disciple, and therefore, a matter of great rejoicing as astonishing as that idea might be to us.

Through loud protests and legal machinations, we could avoid persecution but rob ourselves of something of infinitely greater value than a comfortable or long life.

Straight road - Photo by Diego Jimenez on Unsplash
[Photo by Diego Jimenez on Unsplash]

The notion of inviolate civil “rights” that must be defended at all costs is incompatible with New Testament teachings on discipleship, mercy, and suffering for the Gospel. Failure to faithfully endure persecution makes us unworthy of the Master who showed us the “
perfect” way of his Father. To become the “greatest” in the Kingdom of God we must first become the “slave and servant of all.”

The Apostle Paul willingly surrendered his “right” to take a wife for the sake of the ministry. Likewise, he had the “right” to expect financial support from his churches, but he often abstained from doing so and instead supported himself through manual labor for the sake of the Gospel - (Acts 18:3, 1 Corinthians 4:11-12, 9:1-14).

In contrast to this world, its ideologies, and its political systems, we are offered the privilege of serving God’s Kingdom, and the great honor of enduring insults, hatred, rejection, and persecution on behalf of its King, along with everlasting rewards that will far outweigh any losses we may incur in this life while waiting patiently for his return.



RELATED POSTS:
  • Suffering for Him - (To follow Jesus requires the willingness to suffer for his sake, and enduring persecution is the highest honor imaginable in his Kingdom)
  • Mercy and Enemies - (When disciples react to hostility with hostility, whether by government, society, or individuals, Satan triumphs)
  • Superabounding Righteousness - (Mercy and love are defining characteristics of his disciples and reflect the true nature of his Father – Matthew 5:43-48)

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