We know that true Christians are to suffer the fate of Christ … to be mocked and spurned by the world. But in modern America, we’re seldom burned at the stake or fed to lions. So I’ve often thought that Christian persecution looks very different in 21st century America than in almost any other place or time. But reading First Corinthians this morning made me wonder if we’re really in such a different position than those in the early church.
10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment. (1 Corinthians 4:10-13, New International Version, ©2011)
Paul was admonishing the early church at Corinth, who felt so “wise in Christ,” that they were lording that presumed wisdom over others, and using it to one-up each other by associating themselves with factions in the church (in this case, the “Paul Faction” vs. the “Apollos Faction.”)
I was recently snubbed by a friend who told me that he “couldn’t stand all of (my) religious crap.” And I was really torn about how to feel. On the one hand, it’s to be expected: When we try to represent Christ and live the way he intended us to, we will be snubbed and mocked (if not worse).
But that view may be too simplistic. Paul’s message to the Corinthian church is a reminder that, especially in a society where Christianity is upheld (at least on the surface), we’re just as likely to be perceived as pharasaical “moral police,” who are spouting their wisdom just like the Corinthians. Am I truly living like Christ did? Or like Paul? Am I humbling myself and serving others? Loving and praying for my enemies?
I don’t mind being mocked or cast aside for Christ. And I expect to be rejected by “the world” – by modern secular culture. But I need to be sure it’s because I’m really acting like Christ – and not like a Corinthian.