Wednesday
Feb182015

Persecution of Christians: how should we understand and respond?

Salvation as Transformation

The Apostle Paul instructed the Christians in Rome to avoid conformity at all cost and to choose to be transformed by the power of the gospel (Romans 12:1.2).

This gives a new meaning to salvation in Christ Jesus.

  1. Salvation is being delivered from the world to live in the world. (Mark 3:13,14; Acts 1:7,8; Matthew 28:19; 1 Peter 2:9,10.) It is being delivered from the influences of the world to influence the world. It has a double function of opposing and permeating the world.

 

  • Called out – of the pervasive evil influences of this world.
  • Set apart – Indicates the purpose of salvation. We are set apart first, to learn from God and secondly, to glorify God though our godly influence in this world. Not to live in isolation but to be relevant in the community around us.
  • Sent out. The relevance of the community of God is in their going out and the manner in which they go out. Their life-style is their greatest witness. There is no reference here to conquests and “conversions” but healing, serving and caring. 

 

2.     Salvation is being delivered from messianic triumphalism.

 

  • Salvation means healing and restoration of the community not the crushing defeat of the enemies.
  • Jesus’ saying, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3), applies to the individual who refuses to repent and also to all those who suffer because of the lack of that person’s repentance. It also applies to those who have repented but do not live a penitent life.
  • The Son of Man, “must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and after three days rise again.” (Mark 8:31). Entry into the Kingdom of God begins with death.
  • Like crucifixion, discipleship is a slow, shameful and painful death of the self. It is voluntary submission to a new value system. 

3.  Salvation is transforming the tool of terror into a means of grace.

 

Oppression does not kill hope but it raises the price of hope

The Roman cross was the ultimate symbol of violence, subjugation and humiliation. Besides being a vicious form of capital punishment reserved by imperial Rome for political dissidents, it was also used for the purpose of deterrence. Crucifixion was used to discourage others from rebelling against the might of Rome- lethal violence to gain compliance and submission.

Jesus accepted the cruel symbol of oppression as the means of definitive liberation. Through the cross Jesus challenged the paradigm that self-preservation is the ultimate goal of life.

The Roman cross was the sign of “human beings rejecting human beings.” The cross of Christ is God accepting human beings as they are and entering into a relationship with them where they are (1Corinthians 1:18). It is the meeting point of God and his creation. 4.     Salvation is also the transformation of human expectations. Transformed expectations are the foundation and source of strength for realizing our hopes.

4.  Salvation is not just the cancelling or the conversion of the past; it is also the transformation of our expectations of life itself.

  • We cannot understand salvation unless we understand compassion.  Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus with his family and friends because Lazarus was his close friend. Before he would perform the greatest miracle – giving life to a dead man- he wept with his bereaving friends. He could have turned their wailing to laughter but he preferred first to weep with them. This is the way of the cross.
  • Miracles of Jesus were acts of compassion. He was moved with compassion.
  • His refusal to use power was also acts of compassion.

   Conclusion

The resurrection of Jesus demonstrates that we too can overcome. We overcome, not by running away from our problems, or by surrendering to the overwhelming forces that oppose the way of the cross, or even by constantly aiming to conquer and destroy those who try to destroy us, but by transforming those who seek to do evil by doing good. This is the message of Easter. This is the meaning of resurrection. This is the essence of life in Christ.

We must encounter the world the same way the resurrected Christ encounters us.

 

 

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