Dear Brother or Sister in Christ,
Imagine that it is July 19th, 64 AD. In the wee hours of the night, you look up into the wealthy district of Rome and you see mansions and temples engulfed in flames. You had heard rumors that the Emperor, Nero, wanted a much grander palace—and you suspect this fire was set deliberately so he could lay claim to the land he wanted. But within just a few days Nero spreads word that it was Christians who were responsible for the fire. You watch as many of your friends and family members are thrown into the arena with wild beast, crucified, or burned alive as living torches.
People you ate with, sang with, and prayed with are dying all around you very violent deaths. Nero finds the members of your congregation an easy target, and so he makes examples of them executing them with lavish publicity. And yet, you continue on—telling people about Jesus. After all, nothing can stop the wonderful news that Jesus brought to a dying world. Imagine hearing someone read Paul’s letter to your congregation: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” And so, with renewed zeal and passion, you continue on about His work.
Fast-forward 1956 years, to the year 2020. Nero and his persecution of the church have faded into the past. The church has spread to most nations across the globe. And yet, the sweet message of Jesus has become quiet—almost silent—across the world.
Instead, it has been replaced by talk of a virus.
Instead, it has been replaced by divisions over masks.
Instead, it has been replaced by speculations of a vaccine.
Instead, it has been replaced by divisions over an election.
Instead, it has been replaced by cancel culture.
Instead, it has been replaced by social media posts and memes.
Instead, it has been replaced by civil rights and racial justice.
Instead, it has been replaced by black lives matter.
Instead, it has been replaced by sex trafficking and porn addiction.
Instead, it has been replaced by talk of the roller coaster stock market.
Instead, it has been replaced by who has been elected in Washington D.C.
Instead, it has been replaced by unemployment and stimulus checks.
Instead, it has been replaced by protests and riots.
Instead, it has been replaced by division over the Supreme Court.
Instead, it has been replaced by news media that desires to control the public.
Instead, it has been replaced by fear of physical death.
The Good News of Jesus has stopped this year because Christians are divided, we have taken our eyes off of Christ, and we have set aside His commands until the pandemic ends. We have made bitter lines of division over whether we should gather together for worship or worship virtually. We have started worrying more about the physical health of people rather than spiritual health. We have said cruel and hurtful things or cast disparaging glances over whether someone was wearing a mask or not. And in doing so, we now resemble the very world we are supposed to be reaching out to. All the while Satan laughs.
Simply put, we have forgotten that it is not about us. It’s ALL about Him, and Him alone. Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. (Matthew 16:24). Wearing a mask or not wearing a mask does not make you a “better” Christian. Nothing we do compares to what Christ did on the cross! Kneeling for BLM events or not kneeling will not affect our salvation. It’s not about whether or not you’ve been vaccinated. It’s about taking up your cross and following after Jesus—the One who took your sins to His own cross.
Allow me to bring to your mind a few Scriptures that I pray you will honestly meditate on this week. I beg you to evaluate your own life in light of God’s inspired Word:
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; (Matthew 28:19-20).
When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:34-35).
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28)
Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ”Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them” (Revelation 13:14).
For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1)
“For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8)
“For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:18-20).
So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).
Church, it is time we take up our swords once again, be unified, and behave as though we really crave heaven. Do you long to be with Jesus? There is no telling how much damage we have done to the body of Christ (and future generations of our children) by demonstrating to the world we are scared of death and would prefer to stay in this present world. If Christians in Rome under Nero can spread the Good News under fear of crucifixion and being burned alive, then certainly we can keep it going during a pandemic. Take up your cross and follow after Him. Not when the pandemic is over. Not when the vaccine has reached 75% of the population. Not when people agree with your political or social views. Take up your cross TODAY and follow after Him!
May our great God be merciful and gracious for our apathy and fear.
I love you—and I long to be with you in heaven,