For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.
— Mark 6:18-20
We have been tracking the shift for some time. To simply say what the Bible says — as one who believes what it says, of course, not as some gawker agog at its impoliteness — is defamatory, thought crime, hate speech, what have you.
Let’s first be cautious. No one’s being burnt at the stake for their faith. No one’s even being thrown in prison. No one in these parts, anyway.
Now let’s be honest. The trend is downward. These things are actual crimes in quote-unquote “civilized” nations, and we would be arrogant to act like laws like that could never be enacted here. Every unfree nation got unfree while making great assurances to its people.
But let’s be realistic. The kingdom of God is so much bigger than empires of the world. Let’s be cautious and let’s be honest — let’s not get into histrionics but let’s not put our head in the sand — but let’s remember exactly who’s in charge here. The Western world may be moving from Herod (a disbelieving openness to our voice) to Herodias (a hostile calling for our head), but the situation is never so grim as all that. We may get what we don’t deserve but we will be getting exactly what we’ve been promised. “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you” (1 John 3:13).
Our Sovereign Lord isn’t making this all up as he goes along. The Trinity holds no emergency sessions.
“Take heart; I have overcome the world,” John 16:33 continues.
Christ the Lord sustains the universe by his powerful word, he declares the end from the beginning, he laughs kings to scorn, he walks on the storms, he stirs the mighty seas, he makes the mountains his footstool, he brims with sovereign glory from everlasting to everlasting. He is God.
Will we bear the derision and disgrace? Yes, and count it wealth (Hebrews 11:26).
Will we suffer the plundering of our property? Yes, and count it joy (Hebrews 10:34).
Will we suffer division in our families and communities? Yes, and count it worthiness of Christ (Matthew 10:37).
To take up one’s cross meant one thing in Jesus’ day. They did not have the luxury of metaphorizing it as we have for so long.
But cheer up.The worst thing they can do is kill us (Matthew 10:28). And we all know what Jesus does with dead stuff.
Let us be resolute together to agree that whatever makes us more like Jesus, be it comfort or cross, is authorized by God, and believe he will not take anything needful away from us that he won’t return to us a million-fold. In fact, even if they kill us, it isn’t the end of the world. Paul writes:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthiains 4:7-9)
What this all means is that, while it might get worse for us, it cannot get desperate. “Oh, you want to kill me? I must object for both of our sakes, but in any event, I gave myself up for dead long ago anyway” (Galatians 6:14). The Christian is united with Christ (Romans 8:1), seated with him (Ephesians 2:6), hidden with him in God (Colossians 3:3), indivisible from him by life or death (John 10:29), Romans 8:38-39). Therefore, the Christian is as secure as Christ himself.
“World, death, devil, hell, away and leave me in peace! You have no hold on me. If you will not let me live, then I will die. But you won’t succeed in that. Chop my head off, and it won’t harm me. I have a God who will give me a new one.”
— Martin Luther
As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
— Romans 8:36-37