Thursday, May 7, 2009

Acts 5:12-42 and the Persecuted Church

I think the thing that impresses me most about the apostles in this passage is their sheer perseverance in the teeth of persecution and abuse. In Acts 3, they get arrested for preaching at Solomon's Colonnade after Peter and John healed a crippled beggar there. By Acts 5:12, it's not just an impromptu preaching location, but the Church's regular meeting place. From there the Apostles are arrested again (5:18) and to there they return to preach both after their miraculous jailbreak (5:19-20) and after they get flogged by the Sanhedrin (5:42). These guys are either remarkably dense, or so righteously stubborn that they simply don't care what men think in comparison to their regard for what God has called them to do. Obviously, I think it's the latter, but I still stand in awe.

Actually, I stand in awe of the believers in the persecuted Church worldwide. I wonder sometimes, could I stand like so many do in forgotten prisons and distant villages all over the world? Could I take torture and death before I would be willing to deny the Sovereign Lord who bought me? Would I consider it pure joy to be counted worthy to suffer (5:41) for the Name of Jesus? I certainly hope so. But I wonder if we in America, with all of our (mostly unused) freedom to preach the Gospel of Christ, aren't missing out on something terribly important to the Christian life. I'm not saying I want to be persecuted or suffer martyrdom for the sake of Jesus. I'm not a masochist, at the end of the day. But it does seem that true Christianity flourishes best and most in a situation in which the Christian life is not lived out on "home court," but where everyone is against you.

If you're still reading this, please join me in a prayer. Pray first of all that God will spur us toward making greater use of our freedom to make the Gospel known. Pray too that our brothers and sisters in tough countries all over the world will endure the test and preach anyway.

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