But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven. Matthew 10:33 (NIV)
A new friend who works in a part of the world where terrorists operate said that they will knock on the doors of villagers asking them to name their religion. If they say they are Christians, they have three options: convert, pay an enormous tax, or leave. If they elect to leave, they do not realize that groups of soldiers will be stationed on the roads leading out of the village to kill them as they flee. Then my friend asked, “What would you say?”
O’Sullivan (National Review, April 24, 2013) determined after some historical research that “our present age is the Age of Christian Persecution.” He looked at the early Church and the Church throughout time to make this determination. I’d really like to think that the world is becoming a more tolerant and accepting place, but the facts dispute that.
The great question is what my friend asked, “What would you say?” if you were asked about your religion? What would I say? I would like to believe that we would all stand up for Jesus rather than betray him in a moment of fear. Jesus said we are not to fear those who can kill the body (Matt. 10:28), but our respect is to be for the one who judges for eternity.
Perhaps we think we’ll never be in a position where we have to make a choice about standing for Jesus or denying him, but don’t we face that choice everyday with our words and attitudes and behavior? Do our lifestyles betray Jesus for fear of our associates or social groups? Or do we stand up for him in gentleness and love?
I think about Peter’s denial of Jesus. On his final denial, Jesus heard him. Luke (22:61, 62) records, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.” I don’t ever want to cause Jesus that kind of grief. Never.
Father, all of us have opportunities to stand for Jesus or for ourselves. Give us boldness to be true to Jesus and strengthen all those who daily must make this courageous choice. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.