Monday, July 18, 2011
To Suffer Or Not To Suffer
This morning, I read chapter four and five of 1 Peter. This letter was written to a persecuted church (1:6). "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 should share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when the glory is revealed." (1 Peter 4:13 ESV)
A little later I watched a video about Chen Guangcheng , a blind Chinese human rights defender, who served over four years of mistreatment and imprisonment at the hands of the Chinese Communists for exposing 130,000 forced abortions and involuntary sterilizations in Linyi County in 2005. China aborts 13 millions unborn children annually, many of them forced. That is an average of over 35,000 abortions per day.
I couldn't help but contrast Guangcheng's courage and sacrifice with the silence of the American church as over 3,000 unborn babies are aborted each day in the USA. I'll never forget the words of a Broward County pastor explaining why he would not speak about abortion in his church. "Fifty percent of my people would leave."
"We must value our relationship with heaven more than our relationship with the world," says Pastor Walter B. Hoye II who, just a few years ago, spent time in jail for refusing to stop speaking words of life and hope to abortion clients in front of an Oakland California abortion mill.
The gospel is the answer to America's abortion crisis. What America needs to hear is the truth about abortion wrapped in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Taking human life stands at the center of Satan's agenda. Jesus exposed him as a "murderer" (John 8:44) who came "…only to steal and kill and destroy." (John 10:10) Jesus went on to contrast that with His mission, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (John 10:10-11 ESV) There could not be two more diametrically opposed missions. One is bent on taking life, the other sacrificing life to give life – abundant life!
That is the message those contemplating an abortion, those performing an abortion, those who have had an abortion, and those endorsing abortion need to hear. Human life is so precious in God's sight that God clothed himself in our humanity in order to rescue us from the certainty of death. The Gospel has always centered on passing from death to life.
Historically, when the Gospel saturates a culture, the devaluation of human life is reversed as the human heart is regenerated and the transcendent truth of the sanctity of human life is embraced. The current state of America can be attributed to the reversal of that process over the last half century.
For decades now, preachers have feared the man in the pew or the man of the world more than God and His Word. Peter had a message for our day. "Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?" (1 Peter 4:16-17 ESV) A few weeks ago Pastor Rusty Lee Thomas wrote, "God establishes His divine order of judgment. First, He will deal with the Church's complicity and complacency with evil. Afterward, those who advocate and promote evil…"
In light of Peter's warning, let us boldly preach the Gospel to our nation, crying out for mercy and for another spiritual awakening. Historian Keith J. Hardman in his book, The Spiritual Awakeners, writes of America's three Great Awakenings, noting how these awakenings "…energized the churches and poured countless new converts into them…In each of these three periods the church has poured its zeal for righteousness into the bloodstream of the nation…Renewed and empowered Christianity has been the single most important moral factor in making America great."
This remains America's hope. America needs another "infusion of righterousness into" its bloodstream. History can repeat itself, but the way may be paved with suffering. If so, are we willing to pay that price?
(You can see the video of Chen Guangcheng at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpVJidDqVJo)