Saturday, March 5 Read Matthew 5:1-14
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:10
Sharing the Faith
The simplicity and straight-forwardness of today’s passage creates difficulty. According to it, those who lay down their lives or suffer deprivation for the sake of Christ do not lose all. Rather, they are blessed with an eternal place in heaven. Their Father remembers them and rewards them for their devotion. The difficulty with this passage occurs when we try to apply it to our lives.
Fortunately, we live in a relatively tolerant country. Rarely are people in America persecuted for their devotion to Christ. Consequently, our experience with the religious persecution of Christians is limited to history books and news programs about foreign countries.
The absence of religious persecution should not, however, lull us into complacency. To the contrary, it should spur us to embrace our faith, love our Lord and spread our faith. But the prospect of evangelizing the good news to others is as terrifying to many as the prospect of true religious persecution. Consequently, we content ourselves with a quiet faith, strong on personal devotion to the Lord but silent on external statements of faith.
Too often, we make excuses. “I don’t know what to say.” “People will think I’m a hypocrite.” “I don’t want to offend someone.” But if we are honest with ourselves, we know the truth is that we are afraid. Afraid of being judged. Afraid of being ridiculed. Afraid to put ourselves in a vulnerable position. Through this fear, we persecute ourselves into silence. We – not others –mute the voice of evangelism.
As we walk through Lent, we should look to Christ as our example of how to tackle our fears. In anticipation of his coming arrest, persecution and execution, Christ prayed in the garden to his Father, the Lord. He admitted he was afraid to die. Yet, with faith in God, he faced his persecutors and conquered the cross.
We may not be facing death as Jesus did, but we can confess our fears – whatever they may be – to the Lord. With God’s help, we can gain strength to pry us out of our safe and silent dedication to the Lord imposed by self-persecution and find a way to share our Christian faith with others. Doing so is a way to share the gift of eternal life that Jesus died to give us.
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