“User-friendly” Christianity - May 22, 2020
As children of Adam, we tend to be hedonists. We want to be immersed in comfort and pleasure. While it is true that God created people to bestow His good gifts on them, by turning away from God through the lie of the serpent, people attempted to find an alternative source of pleasure, which was destined to fail. All people found was death; there is not and may never be life apart from the One who is the Giver of life.
That is why we should not be surprised when our thinking of Christian life gets distorted in many ways. Christ said He came so that people “may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10), and we are tempted to understand it in terms of possessions in this life. St Paul said: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me”(Phil. 4:13), and we find delight in thinking that we must be successful in this life, for our God is strong and powerful. Alas, by our nature, we do not want to recognize that the Lord’s “power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).
We naturally want to be on the winning side of things, all the more in our Christian life, both individually and collectively. “We are the champions.” The old man in us is anxious to see growth, prosperity, respect and admiration from everybody else, Christians and non-Christians alike.
The Christian message, however, and the God in whom we believe run contrary to our human aspirations of the old Adam. The scandal of Christianity is found in its insistence on exclusivity. There is only one truth, only one way to salvation. By default, all other religions are misleading and paving the way to hell. That makes Christians not “friendly” in the eyes of the world. That is embarrassing. And so it may cause some to compromise in the matters of faith with the hope that it will result in more peace and stability in society. That is not likely to happen. The perception of being part of a “Christian society,” once fairly common, is quickly disappearing.
As Western society rapidly reverts to the non-Christian moral values, it becomes more important to study the rich experience of the Church with respect to persecution and martyrdom. The main lesson we can learn from it: This is extremely serious. It is a matter of life and death. And shallow Christianity that is individualistic and psychologically oriented is absolutely doomed in that epoch.
Christians suffer because Christ suffered
Christians may seem increasingly small and miserable in this world. We should not be surprised. After all, our Lord looked miserable on the cross, and it only with the eyes of faith that we can see Him there for what He is: almighty Lord and King.
It is important to realize that our sufferings caused by persecution are not incidental to our faith. If it were so, then the cross of Christ would also be incidental, just one of the steps in “salvation plan” to get over and forget about.
So, you are a Christian? Congratulations! You belong to the faith where you are expected to suffer in this life. Christian sufferings are inherently Christological, and in that they reflect the nature of God as He truly is.
The Rev. Alexey Streltsov is a pastor in the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church. This article is reprinted from the June/July 2014 The Lutheran Witness.
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“It was many long years before Elizabeth had the joy of seeing, in her own body, that God had not forgotten her. ‘He looked on me,’ she said. The proof was the baby growing inside her, though she was an old woman by that time. But you and I don’t need to wait so long. God has looked on us, too. The proof is the baby growing inside of Mary—God’s own dear Son Jesus, Who came to be your Savior. In Jesus, you can see that God has remembered you. He has looked on you with love—He has even made you His own child. You are not forgotten. You are beloved.” – Dr. Kari Vo, Lutheran Hour Ministries, a Life Quote from Lutherans For Life
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