When God first told me to open our house to hosting the church, I was a little argumentative and asked Him why we needed to start meeting in houses. He told me that it was to “prepare the church for persecution.” I had no idea what that meant, at the time, but I remembered it. Now, I am coming to understand more fully what it means to be persecuted for following Jesus. Though I have lived in countries where sharing the gospel was (echem…) frowned upon, I have not yet had the honor of being physically beaten, or imprisoned for Christ, but many of my sisters and brothers have. And we are a part of them.
Do you know that in countries where Christians are persecuted, believers are trained to respond to persecution? Have you ever been trained to know what to expect and taught a biblically based response to persecution? I’m assuming that was not part of your Sunday School curriculum. So while I struggled with feeling really unworthy to write about persecution when my own trials have been relatively mild compared to others, the truth is that I have actually experienced persecution, so it is by the grace of Christ that I claim my right to humbly offer what I have seen so far in hopes that some of you will be ready in a way you may not have been before. I write boldly without apology that some of you may be moved to pray for the persecuted church and some of you may run headlong into the fire. It’s actually pretty nice in here…there’s a fourth man with us (Daniel 3:16-29).
ARE YOU BEING PERSECUTED? WHY NOT?
First, a caveat (because my friends like them)—we hear a lot of people these days saying they are persecuted for their political or cultural views or for being ‘who they are’, but that is not the type of persecution I’m talking about. In today’s cancel culture it is easy to fall into a sense of being victimized or wanting to validate ourselves against others’ general cruelty or coldness, but that is not the type of persecution I’m talking about either. So allow me to be clear. I’m talking only about persecution Christians will experience for following the way of Jesus and obeying His voice. Persecution for the sake of Christ is when you are being chased down or out of an area because of your faithfulness to Jesus, His message, and His Kingdom.
Do not think for a moment that just because you are living in a land of religious freedom that you are immune to persecution. In fact, if you are not being persecuted for following Jesus, I would ask you if you truly are following the teachings of Jesus. As Paul writes to Timothy,
So as you begin to truly follow the way of the kingdom and do what Jesus said, you can expect to experience push back. Jesus, Himself, said to expect this and to rejoice in it.
Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Luke 6:22
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. John 15:8
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 1 Peter 4:12-14
Persecution may come because you have obeyed God instead of your friends, your family, religious or cultural leaders, or worked outside of cultural expectations for the sake of the gospel. To be clear, when rejection or pain is not because of Jesus, it does not count as persecution in the way I mean it here. If you have simply worked outside of cultural expectations because you wanted to and not because God told you to do things a certain way, it’s not persecution for Christ. But if you HAVE listened and obeyed God and are in alignment with the message of the gospel, and then experience a rejection, a silencing, a chasing out, a beating because of it, you can be joyful because you have obeyed God.
Any criticism, loss, false accusations, or unjust punishment you receive from that position of bold obedience needs to be understood for what it is—persecution for the sake of Jesus. Otherwise you may be tempted to think that it’s your own fault for being “intolerant,” or immature, or brash, or rebellious, pulling you into self-focused doubt and into a deep slavery to fear of man. Such a view will keep persecution from accomplishing its work of separating you COMPLETELY from this world and COMPLETELY to God.
Also, for heaven’s sake don’t seek out persecution, but if you are being persecuted for Jesus, own it. If you are not being persecuted now, check yourself. Are you being as bold as you want to be about what Jesus has done for you? Are you as available to Him as you want to be? Come on, baby! Sell out! You only get one life to live blameless before God and in vibrant relationship with Jesus, telling your story to these people in your life. And once you start, get ready for…yes! PERSECUTION! Yeehaw.
Here’s the good news.
Ironically, persecution is probably the most effective tool for making steadfast followers of Jesus. In a quote attributed to Tertullian—”The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” (Apologeticus, L.13) It seems counterintuitive that being hunted down and chased would inspire MORE bravery and boldness not less, but when you are told to stop talking about Jesus (whether from a friend, family member, or colleague), there is something that happens in you. You are faced with a choice to choose to obey God or man. And these choices have actual consequences. Persecution puts you in the position of having to choose between God and man. Between comfort and crucifixion. That’s the point.
Persecution and Tribulation in Scripture
The words “persecution” and “tribulation” in scripture are really interesting. Persecution refers to a chasing and hunting down and tribulation means a trapping with no way out, with the intent to obliterate. Persecution might be the chasing down that occurs when you refuse to change your prayer habits (Daniel praying to God), or when you resist the subversion of the gospel (Peter, John, Paul), when you correct elders and leaders who are not following Jesus (Stephen), or when you refuse the pressure to bow to anything other than God (Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego).
Jesus is our model for understanding persecution. When we look at who persecuted Jesus we notice that He was persecuted by almost all the potential possible sources:
- religious leaders who were jealous, scared, pressured, blind, distracted with protecting their position and the temple culture
- political/cultural leaders who were (unjustly, at the time) worried about instability of military loss of power
- his own former disciples who were greedy, confused, or afraid
- and even family members who loved Him but who were worried or ashamed of Him and called him mentally unstable in public! (Mark 3:21)
But this is what Jesus said:
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:10-12
Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. John 15:20
Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 1 John 3:13
Obedience to Jesus WILL ABSOLUTELY lead to persecution.
Everyone who seeks to live a Godly life will be persecuted. Notice Paul did not say, everyone who goes by the social designation of “Christian” will be persecuted, but all who actually desire to live godly lives (as Christ lived). This is an important difference. Many who call themselves “Christians” are not actively following the teachings of Jesus. Jesus said when you love me you will obey and He would give the Holy Spirit to help us. But many do not love Him in a way that moves them to make the sacrifices of time needed to have a conversing relationship with Him. Nor do they renounce sin or challenge brothers and sisters to reject socially accepted cultural habits of wealth-building, violence, and adultery. These false teachers and their followers have accepted a cultural amalgamation that is admittedly called “Christianity” but grossly misuses biblical terminology to control instead of truly free people, while promoting a hypocritical version of compartmentalized morality that allows sin to multiply, and misinterprets the parables and other scripture to promote their own comfort, renown, and prosperity. When we begin holding ourselves accountable to the teachings of the gospel of the Kingdom, we will begin experiencing persecution (Matthew 5-7 is a good place to start with these commands of Jesus if you do not know what in the world I am talking about–and that’s ok! You should read it and let His words cut you to the heart so you can feel your need for Jesus and be changed by Him writing His law of love on your heart!). Anyone who steps into a radical fellowship with Jesus, who falls in love with Him, and who begins wholeheartedly following His teachings knows this. When you begin to listen to the Holy Spirit and learn to follow Jesus, you will find yourself having to choose between pleasing God and humans on an increasing basis. Choose God every time and do not hide your love for Him and you will, most assuredly, offend people…probably more than once.
Regarding house churches, you would be surprised how many people get offended and defensive when you start talking about church gatherings in homes on Sundays. Gather any other day of the week and you are not bucking the system, but Sunday mornings have become our times for programmed Christian productions for our families and opting out of that for intimate fellowship with the church (as people) feels like an attack to established institutions. In fact, obeying God by hosting a house church may be the beginning of experiencing persecution on a new level for you as you share what God is calling you into with people who may misread your intentions as divisive, angry, and rebellious. So what will help the true followers of Jesus prepare ourselves for persecution? What should we expect? Here are five things that are simple, core values from scripture.
- YOU MUST ENDURE PEACEFULLY WITHOUT DISOWNING CHRIST, RADICALLY FORGIVING THOSE WHO SAY OR DO HATEFUL THINGS TOWARD YOU.
Persecution may involve hiding, but never lying, never disowning Jesus, and never retaliating. When David was being chased by Saul, David had only ever served the king wholeheartedly. But Saul was jealous and wanted David out of the picture because God had chosen David as the new king of His people. Though David had the chance to slay the king, he never did, because he would not touch God’s anointed king. His only choice was to hide in caves and wait for God to save him and establish him. Furthermore, David resisted the temptation to kill Saul and take the throne. If you are being persecuted, your role is not to hate, injure, or kill (physically or metaphorically) your pursuer. Instead we are to respond with prayer, patience, contentment, and generosity in the middle of persecution and hardship, knowing that we are secure in God’s love. His love spills over into true love for our persecutors, even as we correct and reprove them, even as they hate us for it. Even in your pain, you must love this way.
If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Luke 6:29
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:44-45
For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? Romans 8:35
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Romans 12:14
Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 1 Peter 4:16
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Finally, as followers of Jesus, when interrogated about our relationship to Jesus, we do not deny Him. We will not disown Him because we love Him. Also, as extra motivation: But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven. Matthew 10:3
2. Persecution involves ACTUAL loss (potentially including but not limited to reputation, money, status, land, family, and maybe your physical life)
If you are persecuted as a follower of Christ expect false accusation of your character, saying you did things you did not do, false accusations that you are aligned with false theology, immoral people, or false spirits, and false accusations based on wrong perceptions of your motivations and actions.
Remember that Jesus was called a rebel against authority and the scriptures, a blasphemer, a demoniac, and a false teacher. He died the death of a false prophet. At the time He died, almost everyone thought he had lied about being the Messiah. He was supposed to be the warrior savior and king of the Jews! He was made a mockery. He was disregarded as a common criminal by his own followers (except for John and the three Marys [yes, his mama came back around]). Do you expect to be perceived as anything more? Do you think people who condemn you will even think twice about your death or pain? They probably won’t even remember anything they said to you. That’s why we must speak a “better word” over them the way Jesus did. We forgive. They don’t even know what they are doing.
Expect the kind of persecution that will lead to your public humiliation, downplaying of your martyrdom, the loss of legacy, the loss of influence. Expect these humiliations to trickle down to all of your life, affecting your status, your job, your family life, and potentially even making people angry enough to take your life.
Remember how Jesus asked people to choose Him. The rich young ruler was asked to lay down land and money. Fishermen were asked to leave families and income. And did Jesus comfort them in those moments? Not really. He did not pull out all the marketing plans and metrics to convince them that the kingdom was a worthy investment of their time and money. At best, he told vague stories about silver and pearls and treasures in fields. Most of the time, he simply said, “Follow me.” The followers had to count the cost and decide Jesus was worth more.
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. Matthew 19:29
3. Persecution can often INDUCE feelINGS like loneliness, SADNESS, betrayaL AND ANGER, AND THE FEELING OF BEING “EXPOSED” “FORGOTTEN” OR “ABANDONED” BY GOD.
Elijah had just seen God bring down fire to a water-soaked alter, consuming the sacrifice. He had just slaughtered the prophets of Baal, and prayed successfully for God to send rain back into the land. Empowered by the Spirit he ran back to the palace only to be told he should run for his life. In 1 Kings 18-19, he fled to the mountain of God, exhausted and nearly starving on the way, and presented his case to the Lord stating that he had been very zealous for God and was the only true prophet left. He felt scared and exposed. Maybe a little angry at God?
When you are being actively persecuted for your zealousness for God, don’t be surprised if you feel very alone, sad, and angry. Accusations from others make even your greatest friends and supporters question you and your relationship to God. While you know there are others being chased down for the name of Jesus, it is difficult when you feel like you are the only one being chased out in your specific context. Some people will distance themselves from you just to avoid guilt by association.
Relax. You are not crazy. This is to be expected. In the same way they persecuted the prophets they will persecute you!
When Jesus was at trial, he had no one with Him. No one defended Him. No one ministered to Him or stood up for Him. Even before that Jesus would suffer losses of disciples when He would say hard things (John 6:30-66).
So expect your heart to be pulled toward discouragement, because it’s difficult to feel alone. But fight discouragement and do NOT give in, because it is an illusion. In reality you have many brothers and sisters very near you and also around the world experiencing the exact same thing. I have always been amazed at how God responded to Elijah. He didn’t enable Elijah to wallow in his self-pity, but instead put him back to work, telling him to anoint two kings and a prophet named Elisha and that there were 7,000 who had not bowed their knees to Baal.
Paul also felt this encouragement from God to be bold and keep speaking while He was in a dangerous context in Corinth. God said to Paul in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many people in this city.” Acts 18:9-10
The sweetest thing about Elijah’s story to me was that even during the extreme loneliness, Elijah was obedient to follow God’s instructions (even if he was a little grouchy). And the prophet that God told him to anoint, Elisha, became Elijah’s greatest ministry partner and carried out God’s work faithfully after Elijah left. God is not calloused to your emotions. He knows that loneliness is brutal and sucks the life out of us. And he provides reliable and true friends from the faithful that remain around the world. Expect His faithfulness in this. You are not alone and He sees you. If you find yourself becoming angry at God or believing lies about His character, renounce those lies, repent of your distrust, and return to the truth that He will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6, Joshua 1:5, Matthew 28:20, Hebrews 13:5)
4. Persecution REALLY hurts…BUT DO NOT LET YOUR HEART BE AFRAID
There will be actual pain. Sorry, Sugarplum. This may be emotional pain or mental pain or physical pain. Persecution genuinely hurts. So the question is not whether or not it will hurt, but how you will actually respond to the pain. You may surprised that some of these conversations or encounters may not feel as painful in the moment, even conversations where there has been verbal abuse, lies, sexual harassment, or extreme dishonor. God gives immense joy to accompany the moments when we are unjustly attacked for our work for Christ.
It’s the pain afterwards that is difficult. It’s the pain of the bruises and wounds healing, fighting off bitterness constantly, trying to forgive from your heart, rolling around the implications of the loss in your head and the fear of future pain. I’m talking about the kind of fear that can knock you down and out and make you want to hide in a cave. Cry a little (or a lot) as you heal, bandage the bruises and cuts. You are not ok, but take heart. You are participating in the death of Christ and bearing a cross He has prepared for you. You are fellowshipping in His sufferings. Let it move you to deeper reliance on Jesus and let the body of Christ nurse you back to health. There are 7,000 who have not bowed their knee to Baal and He has many people in your city. You are not actually alone.
There is also the pain of grief and pain of loss for the things you have left behind. Don’t ignore this if you feel it. This is not a sin. Cry and mourn it if you need to (this is not mandatory, you could just shake the dust off your feet), but either way, do not take your hand off the plow and don’t you dare look back! (Luke 9:62) Keep on going. Jesus was called a man of sorrows for a reason! (Isaiah 53) God sees this grief and sacrifice and it is beautiful to Him, so offer your pain as a pleasing and pure sacrifice.
Take courage! Your God sees every tear and He will give you joy in the moment of actively being persecuted just as He has in the past. Not only that, but He has promised to avenge the righteous (Romans 12:19). Remind your heart that you have no need to experience fear at all. Perfect love drives fear out and the one who fears is not yet made perfect in love. (1 John 3-4) So this fear you feel is either the enemy trying to discourage you or your own human weakness. In these moments, be honest with God about your fear, but then submit it to the truth of God’s love for you and for your “enemies” and allow God to perfect His love in you and cast out ALL fear. You are NOT to walk around afraid. Look how David reminds himself and how Peter reminds the church:
O God, have mercy on me, for people are hounding me. My foes attack me all day long. I am constantly hounded by those who slander me, and many are boldly attacking me. But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. I praise God for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me? They are always twisting what I say; they spend their days plotting to harm me. They come together to spy on me—watching my every step, eager to kill me. Don’t let them get away with their wickedness; in your anger, O God, bring them down. You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. Psalm 56:1-8
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit. 1 Peter 3:13-18
5. Persecution makes us one with Jesus! RELY ON HIM-YOUR HUSBAND AND DEFENDER.
Persecution is the avenue by which we are allowed the privilege of becoming one with Jesus in communion and participating in the sufferings and joy of the cross. Here is the best part. The punishment the world dishes out to us for following Jesus is the very thing that pulls us into deeper fellowship with Him. Before Jesus died, the disciples offer to drink the cup of His suffering, and Jesus agrees to let them…eventually.
“Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” Jesus told them, “You will indeed drink from my bitter cup.” Matthew 20:22-23
The cup is a blood covenant. The cup of suffering Jesus was about to drink was His life-blood…it was the cup of a cross! It is through suffering for Jesus that we are invited to partake in His sufferings on the cross. That is profound. This is where the victorious nature of the epistles comes from. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to not only witness fearlessly and endure our own self-death with joy, but also to extend God’s love to the very ones that are punishing us, imitating Christ! In our initial decision to follow Jesus, we lay down our rights to all things: to land, to money, to comfort, to prosperity, to success. In persecution, he takes those things away and we take up a cross and follow to the death of our renown, riches, and reputation. Counting all else as loss. Because only the dead get to experience resurrection! And just like we die with Christ we are also raised with Him into new life-ONE with Jesus!
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:5-11
I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. 8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! Philippians 3:7-10
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
…[looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work]. Hebrews 12:2 AMP
The joy comes from focusing on Jesus and the fact that you’ve decided to die to yourself. It is a sweet fellowship between just you and Jesus and the church, and since Jesus already bore the absence of God, we will never experience His leaving of us, even when we are hated, backbitten, fired, cancelled, beaten, flogged, burned, and killed for Him. We will have no fear because He is with us (Psalm 23, John 16-17).
Come on, Bride of Christ. Count the cost (everything you are, everything you have), drink the cup of His covenant. Your worth to the kingdom is not how far up you can go, how good you get at your craft, how much platform or influence or audience you attain. Your value is your availability to the Lord-not in how many people see you serving God, but what God sees in secret places of your heart. Do you believe me? It’s how low you decide to go, not for the sake of humility in and of itself, but because that’s where Jesus is working and told us to go! Who will follow Jesus to their graves of self-death? That’s what I want to know. Who will follow Him into obscurity and love on a micro level, seeing the person right in front of you with surgical compassion that heals hearts and minds and bodies? Who is asking God where He is going and what He is doing and how you can be a part of it? Who wants to only work for His renown instead of ours (they really cannot coexist), believing that to be the best thing? Remember, you only die once. Where are those brave ones? He is too worthy for you to keep hiding waiting for the right moment to start actually following what Jesus says to do. Come serve the poor. Come disciple the nations. Come share the gospel. Stop hiding and come be beaten to death and be brought back to life with the rest of us. You are the church. Wake up, bride of Christ!
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us. We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it.
In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety. We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings. We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own human wisdom. That is how we have conducted ourselves before the world, and especially toward you. Our letters have been straightforward, and there is nothing written between the lines and nothing you can’t understand. I hope someday you will fully understand us, even if you don’t understand us now. Then on the day when the Lord Jesus returns, you will be proud of us in the same way we are proud of you.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-14 NLT
We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. 11 Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. 12 So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. 13 But we continue to preach because we have the same kind of faith the psalmist had when he said, “I believed in God, so I spoke.” 14 We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to himself together with you. 15 All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory. 16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
2 Corinthians 7: 10ff
As usual, I meet you on this hill.
This time, they follow me here.
They want to follow but they can’t—not yet
Not to THIS pain, this cross is mine to bear
Not to THIS cup, this one is mine to drink
It’s enough that they want to, or think they do.
“Sit here and pray.”
“Peter, James, John, just you.
Come alongside. Come closer.
My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.
Stay with me? Keep watch with me?”
Father, face to the ground I fall at your feet.
I see what you are asking me to do.
This pure life I led is not for holiness’ sake.
It was to know you rightly and to be
Wasted. A blameless sacrifice.
A perfect lamb has not a touch of death or blemish.
There is no reason for him to die,
In perfect health: mind, body, spirit.
A glorious life wasted makes you glorious.
And you bestow your glory on all flesh.
Through such expensive waste.
And now I am wasted for you as all the martyrs will be.
My death will seem as senseless as theirs.
My death will make them pure and able to obey by the Spirit
Their obedience will make them worthy of the crosses they will bear,
The deaths they will die, sharing my suffering.
First internally, fully consumed before you by the fire of your Spirit
And then externally, burned by the fires of persecution.
All “senseless stupid deaths,” except for your glory.
Not my will but yours be done.
Wasted. Poured out.
For now, they sleep. Eyes heavy. It’s not that they don’t want to stay awake. They can’t. Alert sobriety is sometimes too much to ask.
You needed a blameless sacrifice.
Otherwise the pain would just be my discipline
The beatings would be my punishment.
The death would be meaningless.
But I am blameless before you.
Please don’t leave me.
Let my death is glorifying to you.
Not my will but yours be done.
I would be wasted. Poured out.
But this cup—Must I drink it?
This cup is more bitter than bile.
This cup is so much worse than I imagined it being.
If it’s possible, I’d like to not die
A death more humiliating than I imagined
More humiliating than whips, nails, and thorns
Is the aloneness.
Please don’t leave me.
Poured out and wasted.
Look, the blood drips even now from my brow.
And there is no comfort here.
Look, the watchers sleep.
“Wake up, sweet sleepers. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
Pray that you won’t fall into temptation.”
Father, must I die
The death of a false prophet?
How can bearing this shame translate to your glory?
Blameless I have been.
To be crowned in reward only in mockery
To be stripped down in front of everyone and
Even the little I have made into a game
Even the little I have to give, wasted.
I’d like to not die, if possible
To go in honor is one thing
To go in humiliation as a criminal
With no one defending me seems feels wrong somehow
Even my friends.
What will it take to bear all of this?
PLEASE don’t leave me. Please.
Don’t leave me alone and wasted.
With you all things are possible, right Abba?
“Could you not keep watch with me for this hour?”
Father, it would be nice to not be alone.
You said you would strike
The shepherd and sheep would be scattered.
It’s not the striking I’m worried about.
It’s the sheep.
It will confuse them to watch me die.
For only the guilty are crucified.
Not a metaphorical death.
One covered in real shame, real fading away,
Heart-stopping drama that only gets worse until it is finished.
Poured all out.
Like Mary. Like David. Like the Widow. All poured out
They will doubt me.
They will doubt you.
They won’t understand.
They will think I was bruised for my own iniquity.
How crushing it will be to be crushed for blaspheming against you.
For false teaching, and false prophecy, for not being connected to truth.
They won’t believe that I was accused falsely.
They won’t believe my teaching.
I was trying to show them the kingdom.
So their life won’t be wasted.
My death will seem like one more criminal held accountable.
Just one more bad seed burned out
Just one more branch cut off.
Until you tear the veil, and even after—
They won’t understand.
They will wonder what promise they ever saw in me.
They will doubt that you were ever in me.
Their time wasted.
But this cup, I agreed long ago to drink it.
For you, because I love you.
For them, because they will also be asked to drink it,
For us, so we can all be one.
All other pursuits are a waste.
You are worthy of this drink offering.
I drink it in and I pour it out like David did.
To count all things as loss, to buy the kingdom, the pearl.
Your presence is worth it.
Please don’t leave me.
Not my will but yours be done.
Like the birds, no death is unseen or wasted.
“Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough.
Look. The hour has come.
Look. The Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners.
Rise. Let’s go. Here comes my betrayer.”
Please don’t leave me.
False kisses from false friends.
No betrayal wasted.
All the rest are gone.
Please don’t leave me alone.