Sleep has not come easy the last few nights. The thoughts racing through my head in the midst of the horizontal darkness have been triggered by a series of difficult realities that have landed front and center in my mind throughout the last few days. . . realities of heavy burdens being carried by Christian brothers and sisters near and far, known and unknown.
Nearby and known. . . there’s the loving young family that’s been hit by the harsh realities and confusion caused by the sudden psychological struggles of an extremely young child. There’s the handful of young wives and mothers who are walking through the ravages and uncertainties of cancer, aggressive treatment plans, and hospitalizations. There are the young families trying to sort things out and deal with the grief of the death of a child or a young father. The list goes on. . .
Far and personally unknown are the unnamed Christians who we read about as being kidnapped, abducted, rounded up. . . and then in most cases, martyred at the hands of extremists. We sit in warm homes on safe chairs wondering how long and how far the persecution will extend. And, if we ponder these things as we should, we wonder why them, why not us, when we might expect the same, and how we would/will fare in the face of these realities.
Over the past few days, I’ve also seen numerous postings from youth workers making suggestions on why and how we should talk about these things with our kids. That’s a necessary step in our comfy little world of safety. If we ignore these things we are only ignoring some of the most central ideas of Jesus’s teaching about what it means to truly follow Him.
The other morning I read these words from Matthew 10:16-39. . .
16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
24 “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!
26 “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.
34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn
“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’
37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
I read this in Scotty Smith’s Everyday Prayers this morning: “Please unshackle me from the illusion of control and a commitment to a pain-free heart.” Wow.
So. . . what should we be teaching our kids about following Jesus? About pain, suffering, and persecution? About what it means to be invited into the sufferings of Christ? About the true definitions of peace, prosperity, our pursuits, and our momentary presence in this world? What should we be teaching kids about God’s promised measure of amazing grace?