Monday, December 01, 2014

A Thought for Monday 1 December 2014

“Recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings; partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.  Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.”  Hebrews 10:32-35

Especially for teenagers, I suppose, there is nothing more challenging than to take a stand for The Lord; not just to proclaim one’s own justification but to actually distance oneself from that former circle of friends.  It is a virtual guarantee that young people will endure “great struggles” to become someone whom The Lord will be pleased with will take a lot of ribbing from the old friends who do not understand the transformation which has taken place.  And it becomes necessary in many cases to take that deliberate step away from a former life when one’s old friends put forth much more effort to ‘change you back’.

It is not always the overt challenges, however, that are the greater threat.  Sometimes the threats we face are more subtle and much more insidious.  It will not always be direct attacks that challenge our newfound faith.  Rather there will those waiting in the wings to see if our transformation is genuine, if our new allegiance will last.  They’re not hoping for the best for the new convert; rather they are hoping for something to laugh at, something to prove to themselves that there is no such thing as such a transformation.  Even those who may come to your defense will do so at their own risk, “joyfully accepting the plundering of [their] goods”; their reputation, their social standing.

The writer had endured such things himself and had watched as those to whom he was writing had come to his defense at the risk of their own “goods”.  He reminded them, however, that the risk in this life is small compared to the “enduring possession” waiting for those who persevere in faith.  It was not easy for them, of course, because they literally faced threats to their mortal lives.  Yet the threats we sometimes face cut even deeper when we are ostracized and criticized for our ‘hypocrisy’.

It is never easy to face down those threats, and standing firm in the faith is made even more difficult when we decide we and our children are better off without the Church.  You see, it is not simply about going to church that makes the Church what our Lord requires; it is entirely about being the Church especially for those who need the strength of the community to endure the many challenges we will all certainly face.  And it is only the Church that will take the time to remind us of the “enduring possession” that will one day be ours.

We should see, then, that being engaged in the life of the Church is not about what we can gain for ourselves.  It is about those who need us to encourage them, to support them, to strengthen them.  When we walk away from the Church, we are not walking away from the Institution or the preacher; we are walking away from those who need us most.  It could also be that our abandonment of the Church means that those who accuse us of “hypocrisy” have finally drawn blood; they hit where it really hurts when we care more about pleasing them and getting them off our backs than we care about Christ and His Church.

We must all stand firm together, for that is where our strength lies; in Christ’s Body the Church, the “ekklesia”, the congregation of the faithful who endure the very same challenges, “for the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16).



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