Persecute Us Dear Lord, Or Longing For The Good Ole Days

I have a fair sized crush on the early church. Truth be told, I romanticize about it. The simplicity, the true camaraderie and inter-dependence, the raw and wild nature of a brand new sparkling movement – I’m into it. I’m sure you can poke plenty of holes in it, but nonetheless I think I’ll still always turn to the New Testament church as the example.

This undeniably will sound crazy – but the other day I was lamenting not being persecuted. Peter, in one of his letters to the perfect, pristine, unflawed early church wrote

“But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear what they fear, do not be frightened.’”

I’m sure lots of people have been encouraged by these words embroidered on their Bible case, but truth be told those of us in our suburban churches have little clue (note I’m not saying no clue, I’m getting better at not speaking in black & white) what those words meant to people to whom they were intended. When I see the countless Nooma-esque videos of pastors with stylized hair and warm smiles giving feel good messages I both cringe and realize how truly blessed we are.

As someone who lives just shy of two thousand years after the last bit of the Scriptures was written I have great troubles understanding the book. I know, I know, it’s God word to his people, but let’s be honest I do recreational gardening, not farming, so therefore I don’t understand plenty of parables and parallels, I didn’t grow up Jewish so I can barely understand half of what Jesus referred to AND my church isn’t being persecuted or tortured. I don’t have to hide my faith. Heck, I publish it on the internet!

I’m truly not asking to be persecuted, and I am trying to count my blessings in this regard. I’m actually fairly nervous that if I lived in the early church era I may not have made into the Bible – for I may have not been able to handle the persecution. I know this means you can question whether I’ve truly encountered Jesus – and maybe this is why I felt what I did when reading Peter’s words.

The early church didn’t shrink because it’s members were killed, this in fact only propelled its growth. This is what I was referring to when I seemed to say that people leaving the church could be good – the church seems to work best not in prosperity but under pressure.

So, am I crazy for slightly wanting persecution? Do you also lust for the early church? How do we understand letters written to people being tortured today in our church campuses in the suburbs?

This entry was posted in Deconstructing Big Fancy Religious Systems, Questions I Don't Have Answers To, Wayward North American Church. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Persecute Us Dear Lord, Or Longing For The Good Ole Days

  1. David says:

    A sparkling new movement! The mercies of Christ are new every morning. He is so deep an wide that we could never get to the end of Him, anymore than we can find the end of the universe – and if we do, what’s on the other side of the wall?

    So, am I crazy for slightly wanting persecution?
    Hmmm– what kind? The name calling from atheists and idiots? Rude comments on your blog? Imprisonment, beatings, torture, labor camps, eaten by lions, made to sit on an iron chair as you are burned to death? My friends who were missionaries in China, Vietnam and Mexico would pray, “Lord if they catch us, please just let them kill us quickly.”


    Do you also lust for the early church?
    There certainly was simplicity, a power and an urgency that seems exciting. But they didn’t have toilet paper, so not 100%.

    How do we understand letters written to people being tortured today in our church campuses in the suburbs?
    The Bible says that trial shapes our faith. As Americans, we try very hard to avoid it. And yet we suck at it because half the country is on anti-depressants.

    We have been privileged to live in a country where we once really did have freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Our lawmakers mostly legislated biblical morality – which has had a significant decline since the late 60’s. Eventually I suppose we’ll be somewhat like parts of Europe – state run churches, godless laws, and scientific evidence that pretends to point to the lack of a creator. Like the Jews rounded up in the Holocaust, Christians will suffer something similar. But worse, most folks won’t care at all.

    • JamesBrett says:

      david, toilet paper is way over-rated.

    • Well the persecution I was referring to was the imprisonment or torture kind – but I’m not really asking for that.

      how did people wipe their bums back then? Its a fair question.

      It is a good point that here in America we try to avoid trials, whereas the early church seemed to take them head on. I have to admit it makes me question my own relationship with God, because I don’t seem to have that same tenacity.

      • JamesBrett says:

        with left hands. shake and eat with your right.

        much of the world still uses this method — because of that, i’m just guessing it’s what your new testament church did as well.

      • David says:

        Jesus said to the rich young ruler, see all you have and give it to the poor. Not that this is mandate for all of us. But he knew exactly what was keeping this fellow from following him.

        I believe it was barehanded, with a rinse in water. Some of the ceremonial washing appears to have come from this practice. I also believe that is why Jesus “sits at the right hand of the Father,” and not the left.

        Let’s face it; we have it pretty easy here in the states. Those that don’t are unable to work, or don’t want to work hard.

    • David I’m not quite sure what you are getting it, it sounds like your comment was intended for my previous post about the poor. But I may also be missing out on your brilliance 🙂

      • David says:

        @Charlie – my point was not about the poor. (You have your filter on. 😉 ) It was that God knows the very things that keep us from Him. It could be money, sex, booze, apathy whatever – if we let Him, he’ll deal with it. In this case it was money.

        The second paragraph was about wiping ourselves in the absence of Charmin.

        And the third was a social commentary.

  2. jay @ bethegospel says:

    I totally understand and agree with wanting to be persecuted somewhat. But here is where my faith lacks and falls short – i only think I could be persecuted and withstand it if I was tortured alongside of another brother in Christ. Being tortured by yourself would be hard. But the strength of two I think would be way better. (listen to me – putting limits and strings on my persecution dream. how petty am I?!)

  3. Su says:

    Crazy? No, Romanticising? Kinda. But I have a lot of moments when I think, “Let’s just go back to the beginning and start over, because we have so screwed up this Christianity thing.”

    And I have been known to go postal during a Sunday morning Bible class when (may as well see if this thing works) stupid sincere adults tell us about the persecution they endured that week when they refused to go to the bar with their coworkers so their coworkers WENT WITHOUT THEM and now they feel SO left out shock shock horror. Or somebody’s kid came home crying because another kid made fun of her Christian t-shirt. I actually said once (and this is the sort of thing that wins me lots of friends), “That kid would have made fun of your kid if she’d had a plain shirt on! Some kids make fun of other kids just because they are jerky kids!”

    Yeah. We don’t know about persecution.

  4. JamesBrett says:

    my thoughts are that, more than itself growing the church (in numbers or maturity), persecution simply weeds out those who are not truly christians. and it is because of this purity in the body of Christ that the church grows in maturity and numbers. persecution has no power to draw men to God. but a group of people truly and wholeheartedly living Jesus into their communities does.

    i lived, and planted a few churches, in china for three years — and that was my experience. not that i saw horrible persecution there. but it was still present.

    • ahhh! like I said in my reply to David, that kind of freaks me out because I worry I’ m not a real Christian.

      • David says:

        The problem with Christianity is that it is not a club, a culture or a society; it’s a relationship with God. For most Christians I know, it seems to be more of the culture, club type thing. I find that sad.

        Everything that I know about Christianity is in Acts 2.

        -1 Repent
        -2 Receive Jesus
        -3 Get baptized
        -4 Get filled with the Holy Spirit
        -5 Continue in prayer
        -6 Continue in fellowship
        -7 Continue in communion
        -8 Continue in being taught

        If you get that down, there will be fruit.

      • well you don’t have nearly as many obligations when its a club rather than a relationship. I understand why it is that way for many, but that of course doesn’t make it right.

  5. Brandon says:

    I find it helpful to temper the idyllic Acts 2 church with the community in Corinth (cf. 1 Cor 5.1)…makes me feel good about myself.

  6. Pingback: Oxymorons, or Building a Christian Nation | Charlie's Church of Christ

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