Pastors ask the question, “Are you prepared to suffer for Christ?” They say, “You must be ready to lay it all down.” I’ve left some church services wondering, “Am I actually willing to die for Christ?” Yet by the time our Sunday restaurant is chosen, I’ve moved on. I usually remind myself that we are a good ways away from truly suffering in America. I’ve got a few more good years before I’m forced to choose between my life and my Christ.
And then I watch television, or I listen to radio interviews with trusted Christian leaders who affirm sin, and my heart aches for the Church. I’m grieved to see the mockery made of the Bride of Christ. I’m grieved to see her used. I grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, so I don’t think I’m prudish. I enjoy a good laugh. I like my music loud with driving beats. But lately I feel like a grandmother calling for the care of the Church.
The Apostle Paul encouraged husbands to love their wives just as Christ loved the Church. How did Christ love the Church? He gave Himself for her “that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)
How is it that we have moved so incredibly far away from that sentiment?
Today we don’t seem to care if people stumble because of what we approve. Today we rarely use the actual Scriptures during our services, and many people don’t even realize it. There has been a complete mixing of the sacred with the secular. We, the Church, are not only blemished and wrinkled; we are tarnished. We have allowed our friendship with the world to turn us against God’s standards.
So does it matter? Have the rules of engagement changed? The Apostle Paul recounted to believers in Corinth his sufferings for Christ. He spoke of being in prisons frequently, facing death often, whipped five times, beaten with rods three times! He continued to write of his often journeys -- his shipwreck, his facing robbers, and even his own countrymen. As I read, I can only imagine the hunger, thirst, and sleeplessness he endured.
But then Paul’s letter makes an abrupt and shocking shift. In 2 Corinthians 11:28-29 Paul breaks from all of the physical suffering he’s endured for Christ and says, “And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?”
Wait-what? Paul cared so deeply for the Church that it’s listed among the things he suffered? He cared so much about people being made to stumble that he suffered because of it? Of course he did! The Church is the Bride of Christ. She is worth preserving. She is worth striving for.
If you are a defender of the Church, I encourage you to persevere in contending for holiness. Don’t remain silent, and don’t let those who seek to stain the Church bully you.
You don’t have to die for Christ to suffer for Him. Care deeply for the Church. Reject moralism as a new standard of holiness, or simply point out sin, and you will find yourself indeed suffering for Christ.