My kids need to get out more often.
Two weekends ago, the whole family went on a trip to one of the Philippines’ more popular beach destinations. There was a lot to look forward to in this trip–the underground river (one of the 7 natural wonders of the world!), first plane ride with all the kids (okay, maybe I wasn’t really looking forward to this one), but most especially, the kids couldn’t wait to have fun on the white sand beaches of Palawan.
I mean, come on. Who wouldn’t?!
Apparently, my kids.
Alighting upon the shores of beautiful Luli island, we made our way to the main cabana (built on stilts, as the whole island disappears at high tide). After just a few meters, my eldest turns to me with the sourest look on his face. What’s wrong? “There’s sand in my shoe.” And thus started my son’s doomed mission of keeping the sand off his feet. At the beach. The whole weekend. His little sister wasn’t far behind, insisting she be carried all the way to the swimmable area of the island. Why? Because there were little “rocks” (yes, sand) that were hurting her feet.
Were they excited to play at the beach? Of course! But if only they could get out of walking on the finest, powdery white sand of Palawan (“The sand is hurting my feet!”) in the middle of summer (“Why is the sun always following me?!!”) to get there, they would.
Christ commissions all of us to spread the Good News through the way we live–our words, our actions, our choices. Winning souls for Christ can easily be romanticized into making you a saintly hero: at the right place and at the right time, you shared God’s Word with this lost soul, who lovingly accepted everything you had to say. The Gospel is a beautiful message about unfathomable mercy, finding the lost lamb, unconditional love. But at the same time, it also talks about self-denial, imminent persecution, leaving behind all that you hold dear, carrying your cross. If we proclaim the whole Truth, and not just the attractive, feel-good parts of the story, then we are bound to find out that following Christ is no walk in the park (not even one on the beach).
It doesn’t matter if you live in a communist country, or in a predominantly Catholic/Christian one (like we do in the Philippines). If you are truly and wholly living out the Gospel, (and I won’t be the first to say this), YOU WILL BE PERSECUTED.
Perhaps it is standing up to the pressure of friends while out on the town because you refuse to drink to the point of getting drunk. Or maybe at work, being called a spoilsport for refusing to gossip or speak ill of a colleague. It might even be closer to home (literally), with family members arguing with your stand on contraception, not just because of the hullaballoo over the RH bill, but because of the choice you’ve made for your life and your family.
Small things? Perhaps. But coming from those close to you, lashes like these can still cut pretty deep.
You will be universally hated on account of My name…(Matthew 10:22a)
If the whole world loves you, chances are, you do not (as yet) completely love Christ.
Take a moment to look at your life. Do you live by the standards of this world, or those of Christ? Do you lovingly regard those often forgotten? Do you speak up in behalf of those who cannot defend themselves? Have you given up a luxury in order to give more generously to the poor? Are your choices a reflection of one who upholds life, truth and justice?
Here’s an even simpler question to answer: Have you shared Jesus with anyone today? AnyONE? Sure, you might get jeered at, ridiculed, become unpopular. But wasn’t Christ Himself destined to be a sign that must be opposed (Luke 2:34)?
A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you, too. –John 15:20a
Following Christ and avoiding persecution is like trying to keep your feet sand-free while walking on the beach–it is unavoidable. Corollary to that: if you don’t want to get sand on your feet, simply don’t go to the beach. As it is a sign that if you’ve never tasted persecution, then perhaps you’ve never really stood up for Him whom you call your Lord and Savior.
Proclaim the message and, welcome or unwelcome, insist on it. Refute falsehood, correct error, give encouragement–but do all with patience and with care to instruct. The time is sure to come when people will not accept sound teaching, but their ears will be itching for anything new and they will collect themselves a whole series of teachers according to their own tastes; and then they will shut their ears to the truth and will turn to myths. But you must keep steady all the time; put up with suffering; do the work of preaching the gospel; fulfill the service asked of you. –2 Timothy 4:2-5
Anybody who tries to live in devotion to Christ is certain to be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3:12). If you’ve never been, then I think you need to get out more often.
P.S. I couldn’t help but put in the links to the touristy places; I hope you’ll indulge me. Hey, I’ve got to do my part in showing the world that it IS more fun in the Philippines! Okay, that’s really the last one, I promise.