We saw violence in our society more and more as on a SONday two weeks ago, worshippers were slaughtered in a small-town South Texas church. Yet again, yet so soon, we struggle to make sense of bloodshed and violence. In the past few years, there have been shootings in Aurora, Colorado, Newtown Connecticut, Las Vegas, Nevada and more. Some of these events have specifically targeted Christians. Christians are told they can’t read their Bible in a classroom or workplace. Christians forced to pay for or perform abortions. Christians forced to make wedding cake or flower arrangements for a homosexual wedding. Christians are not being allowed to adopt because of their views on human sexuality. Military chaplains are not allowed to proclaim their Christian beliefs. Pastors have to turn their sermons in to the mayor for approval. IRS restricting recognition of faith-based organizations. College professors not allowing free speech.
Not a single one of the mass shooters had any of the following characteristics: NRA member; registered Republican; participant in tea party movement; conservative; Christian; and/or honorably served in military. Let’s look at Matthew 10:5-42 and make some observations on what Jesus teaches about evil assaults on the Church.
Go, tell about JESUS V. 5-7
V. 10 – don’t worry about the money. God’s reward is more than money
V. 15 – judgment is coming on all mankind based on their faith in Jesus
Life is a dangerous endeavor. We pass our days in the shadows of ominous realities. The power to annihilate humanity has been placed in the hands of people who are happy to do so.
Good people aren’t exempt from violence. Murderers don’t give the Godly a pass. Terrorists don’t vet out victims according to spiritual resumes. We aren’t insulated. But neither are we intimidated. Jesus has a word or two about this brutal world.
You will be PERSECUTED V. 16-20 – Sheep among wolves
His disciples needed this affirmation. Jesus had just told them to expect scourging, trials, death, hatred, and persecution. (To their credit none defected.)
Jesus’ flexed muscles in the country of the Gadarenes, [where] two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs; they were so exceedingly violent that no one could pass by that road. And behold, they cried out, saying, ‘What do we have to do with You, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?’” (Matthew 8:28–29).
These two men were demon-possessed and, consequently, “exceedingly violent.” People walked wide detours around the cemetery to avoid them.
City council – afraid to allow prayer in Jesus’ Name.
School board meeting – trying to remove Bibles, prayer, God and Jesus from our schools.
Abortion providers Atheist and homosexual activists
Others who want to silence Christians from reminding them of what God calls sin.
Fear Him who can KILL the body and the soul. V. 26-28
V. 32 – confess Jesus
Jesus marched in like He owned the place. The demons and Jesus needed no introduction. They had battled it out somewhere else, and the demons had no interest in a rematch. They didn’t even put up a fight. “Have you come to punish us before our time?” (Matthew 8: 29). Translation? “We know you will put it to us in the end, but do we get double trouble in the meantime?” They crumpled like stringless puppets. Pathetic, their appeal: “please send us into those pigs” (Matthew 8: 31).
Jesus did so. “Move,” he exorcised. No shout, scream, incantation, dance, incense, or demand, just one small word. We trace the source of violence back to the devil. We place the fault of bloodshed at the feet of the one whose days are numbered; Satan. We find our hope in the victory of Jesus.
This is the balance on which Jesus writes the check of courage “Do not fear those who kill the body and cannot kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28).
The SWORD of the Lord is our defense – words & weapons V. 34-36
Courage emerges, not from increased police security, but from enhanced spiritual maturity. These days of violence call for people of faith. People of fear make poor decisions. They overreact, lash out and/or retreat. People of courage, on the other hand, keep a cool head. They are not blind to nor bewildered by the evil in the world.
Martin Luther King exemplified this courage. He chose not to fear those who meant him harm. On April 3, 1968, he spent hours in a plane waiting on the tarmac due to bomb threats. When he arrived in Memphis later that day, he was tired and hungry, but not afraid.
“We’ve got some difficult days ahead,” he told the crowd. “But it doesn’t matter to me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. And I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
He would be dead in less than twenty-four hours. But the people who meant him harm fell short in their goal. They took his breath, but they never took his soul.
Take up your CROSS V. 37-39
Stand against persecution
Fight with words
If necessary, fight with weapons
Evildoers have less a chance of hurting you, if you aren’t already a victim. “Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but to trust the LORD means safety (Proverbs 29:25).
Real COURAGE embraces the twin realities of current difficulty and ultimate triumph.
Avoid Pollyanna optimism. We gain nothing by glossing over the brutality of human existence. This is a toxic world. But nor do we join the Chicken Little Chorus of gloom and doom. “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” Somewhere between Pollyanna and Chicken Little, between blind denial and blatant panic, stands the level-headed, clear-thinking, still-believing person of faith. Wide-eyed, yet unafraid. Unterrified by the terrifying. The calmest kid on the block, not for lack of bullies, but for faith in our heavenly Father.
The old people of God knew this peace: “Though a host encamps against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident” (Psalm 27:3).
Our reward is from following JESUS V. 41
Do not give in to your fears. Resist the temptation to retreat and hunker down. This is the time for faith – God-based hope. “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about the evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes” (Psalm 37:7).
You are facing death from Persecution. Are you ready to fight and die for Jesus?
Courage is a choice. Let it be yours.