Bride-Atude Nine: The Faithful Witnesses

Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake.    

In China we are imprisoned and tortured; in Egypt we are denied justice; in Nigeria we are regularly gunned down or burned to death; in Myanmar we are used as slaves by the military; in North Korea we are subjected to medical experimentation; in Gaza we are kidnapped and forcefully converted to Islam; in Somalia we are beheaded.  These are just a handful of examples of Christian persecution worldwide that are happening, now, daily, in our own times.  Why do I use the word ‘we’ rather than ‘they’?  Because when Jesus spoke these words He used ‘you’ in the plural sense; He spoke to us as His Body, members of one another who rejoice as one and suffer as one. 

Western countries are not immune from persecution. The time is here when Christians are indeed being falsely accused of ‘all kinds of evil’, prosecuted, and denied basic rights, on an unprecedented scale, all for Christ’s sake.  In many democratic countries Christians can be prosecuted for expressing a politically incorrect opinion, wearing a cross in the workplace, praying publically or sharing the gospel. 

Following Christ fully and wholeheartedly is no easy thing in these tumultuous days.  Any one of us may at some time be called on to suffer persecution for His sake.  

Uh oh, did I just use the word ‘suffer’?   

OK, I confess.  I’m one of those believers who actually does believe Jesus meant it when He said ‘whoever does not bear His cross and come after me cannot be my disciple’ (Luke 14:27).  I’m certainly not out to glorify suffering, nor do I believe we should deliberately seek it out.  But have you ever asked yourself what this means: 

So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. Acts 5:41 

Or this: 

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Phl. 3:8) 

In choosing to follow Christ we have chosen to identify with His Cross. The truth is you can’t have Jesus without His Cross, it’s a package deal.  But the Cross is multi-faceted.   

On the one hand the Cross is absolutely, profoundly, eternally victorious.  Christ’s Cross represents total and irreversible victory over sin, death, failure, the flesh, and every evil that can be named.  It stands alone, unsurpassed in history as much more than an historical event or a moral example.  Its supernatural power to redeem and restore humanity is unconfined by time, reaching into eternity past, eternity present and eternity to come.  Nothing can ever come near or erase the victory available to us in the Cross.  

On the other hand, the Cross also represents fellowship between the Bride and her Beloved of the very deepest kind.  It is a very precious and unequalled privilege to encounter Christ in the ‘fellowship of His sufferings’ (Phl. 3:10). Until you have met with Him there you have not fully known Him.   The emphasis here is not on sufferings, but on fellowship. Perhaps this is why the apostles rejoiced at being ‘counted worthy’ to suffer for the sake of Christ.  I think they knew something many Christians today do not… least not yet.   

Jesus obviously shared the same opinion about suffering persecution for His sake as the early church, because He concluded this blessing by saying: 

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.  (Mat. 5:12). 

Exceedingly glad? Really?  I think some of us may need a little help with that ‘exceedingly’ part Lord!   

Which spiritual fruit is birthed in the Bride when we are persecuted for His sake?  The fruit is faithfulness.  Some Bible versions use the word ‘faith’ rather than ‘faithfulness’ in Galatians 5:22, but both words are different translations of the one Greek word, ‘pistis’.  What’s important to understand is faith is conviction and faithfulness is the character of one who holds convicting faith.  Convicting faith is deeper than a set of beliefs.  People do not endure suffering or death for a mere belief. They do for a deeply held conviction. 

The primary calling of the Bride of Christ on the earth is probably not what you thought.  It’s not going to church or reading the Bible; it’s not even helping the poor, ‘church planting’ or evangelism. The Bride’s over-riding call on this earth is this:  to be the faithful, living, perpetual witness of Christ’s resurrection before the supernatural principalities and powers.  Paul, who was somewhat of an expert on persecution, called it a mystery.  Check it out in Ephesians 3:8-1: 

Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ. I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning. God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord. (New Living Translation) 

Is it any wonder they like to kill us?

“Salvation is free, … but discipleship will cost you your life.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 ©Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2012

One thought on “Bride-Atude Nine: The Faithful Witnesses

  1. Pingback: Destination Christ | Bread for the Bride

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