There, I said it. I have been afraid of admitting this, even ashamed throughout my life as a follower of Jesus for feeling this way. The realities of torture in our world, the possibility of execution – such things quake me to my core, making me question how devoted to Christ I would truly be if I was ever personally faced with such a horrifying prospect.
And yet a much more terrible cause of death lingers much closer to home…
Recently, I had the realization that every single injury I have ever suffered has come as a result of playing sports. Every one of them. I have broken both ankles, two toes, and two fingers; I have sprained or torn ligaments in both ankles, one knee, and an elbow. Every one of these injuries has come from playing sports.
Sports are wonderful! I love sports! I have realized, though, that sports are a past-time. A luxury. Sports can only be done when one has the time, resources, and capacity to spare for them. They are a form of entertainment. They can be a highly enjoyable and beneficial form of entertainment – but they are entertainment nonetheless. We do sports and we watch sports for our amusement.
Given my ethnicity, culture, genes, gender, age, and socio-economic status, it is far more likely that I will die someday as a result of consumption or entertainment. Something I regularly consume or ingest over the decades will eventually kill me: sugar, sodium, fat, cholesterol, preservatives, hormone-enhanced foods. Many in my demographic will eventually die from other forms of consumption as well: alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs, illicit drugs. To a lesser degree, others in my demographic die as a result of enjoying some form of entertainment, convenience, or luxury: driving in a car, flying in a plane, doing some adventure sport…
Barring some major militant religious takeover, though, my cause of death is almost guaranteed to be from either consumption or entertainment. I may live my entire life without receiving so much as a scratch for following Jesus, and die an old, entertained, convenience-driven, consumption-addict.
^This prospect is beginning to eclipse my fear of persecution and martyrdom.
Pastor Matt Chandler was speaking recently on many Christians’ lethargy and indifference toward one of the greatest modern social travesties of our age when he said, “I wanna have scars! I wanna be in the fight! I don’t want my kids and grandkids to look back on my life and see that I did nothing, that I contented myself to look the other way and ‘mind my own business’ while these atrocities went on right in my own neighborhood!”
My heart leapt within me as he spoke these words. It leapt, not with fear and dread, but with excitement and the genesis of courage.
I have a serious dilemma. On the one hand, I have this fear that I would be somehow captured by a radical religious group, tortured for my faith, and told it will get worse if I do not renounce my devotion to Jesus. Then, in the end, I am executed for it anyway.
On the other hand, I have another fear emerging – one where I reach the end of my life and die in comfort and surrounded by indulgence. Having never endured injury or pain for the sake of God’s love for the poor. Scar-less. Having suffered no ill effects for the sake of God’s Kingdom expanding on the earth. Bearing no evidence in my body of having contributed to His grace extending to the most needy and vulnerable in our world. Of never having been engaged in the fight to push back the enemies of the human soul, like slavery, greed, lust, injustice, murder, exploitation…
I certainly do not desire persecution. I do not want to die a martyr’s death. But more and more, I am thinking I do not want to consume & entertain & convenience & indulge myself to death either…
Merciful Father. Thank You for Your patient love for me. For sheltering me from harm thus far. For allowing me to grow up in a world of comfort and safety. Lord, I want to be true to You unto death, whether that death comes by persecution or by old age. But in the meantime, I must confess to You my fear – my absolute debilitating terror at the thought of torture and martyrdom. And yet, I also feel rising up within me this holy dread of living a comfortable, ineffectual, and scar-less life – dying one day as a result of my own decades of consumption on luxuries, convenience, and entertainment.
As You awaken my slumbering courage and resolve, please fill my bones with Your Spirit. Please fortify my devotion to You in the face of any worldly consequence. And please deliver me from any cowardice or possible denial of You, whether the temptation to deny You would come at the violent hands of persecutors, or by the soothing hands of indulgence. Thy Kingdom come, Father, and Thy will be done, in my life – and in my death – as it is in heaven. Amen.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming…” “I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race. I have not brought shame upon my Lord Jesus by either my life or my death.” –Hunter S. Thompson & the Apostle Paul