“Rather, after we had suffered and been insolently treated, as you know, in Philippi, we drew courage through our God to speak to you the gospel of God with much struggle” ( 1 Thess. 2:2). With this passage and many more in the scriptures, we come face to face with the ever-present challenge of teaching and preaching the faith in the world. There are many who are in opposition to the gospel for various reasons, and their opposition is not just in debate, but in actual hateful, or fearful actions.
Paul, and his companions, in these earliest days of Christian history, met with much opposition. Of course, we are to recognize that the scriptures are comprised of the living truth and that they apply to all times and to all places. There is as much opposition to the gospel today as there was in Paul’s time. The times and the places might be very different, and the means of opposition might be different, but the reality of that opposition carries just as much affect on us as it did on the believers of Paul’s time and place.
There are Christians today in places in our world who are experiencing real persecution and martyrdom for the faith. Ironically, those who are suffering in this way today are often in that part of the world where Paul and the early Apostles and disciples worked to till the soil of faith. The blood of martyrs is still flowing into that soil. We must continually pray for our brothers and sisters in the faith who are suffering this today. We must pray that God gives them the strength to remain true to the faith, even in the face of death. We must pray also that God will give them the grace to preach the gospel without bitterness, with the courage of forgiveness and compassion. We must remember that where sin abounds, God’s grace abounds even more.
We in the western world are suffering challenges to the speaking of the gospel as well. They tend to be more subtle, not so overtly violent against us, yet they are just as absolute as those being experienced by other Christians in our world today. Some of those challenges take the guise of intellectual modernism. The gospel is considered passe, not worthy of a modern intellectual, one who has science and technology at hand. The hubris of intellectual modernism is expressed in the claims that through human intellect, science and technology, our age will finally find the answers to the mysteries of life and death and suffering. This is, of course, intellectual pride on steroids. Others oppose the gospel because they perceive it as either a limitation, or as a direct challenge to their supposed freedoms. In either case, the opposition is just as certain, just as pointed as that which Paul and his companions endured. And we must continually look to God for the graces of confident faith and humble courage in order to continue to speak the gospel boldly to our own times, which is in as great need to hear it today as it was back then.
Lord, fill us with the wisdom, the courage, and the conviction of our faith, so that we may clearly, accurately, and boldly speak the gospel to the world today in both word and actions. We desire to be your good disciples. Help us to walk in your ways every day. This world is desperate for your word and your loving presence. Help us to be that love and presence in such ways that those who oppose you might finally come to know you, to love you, and to serve you as we do. In your name, Jesus, we pray. Amen!
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