Monday, November 08, 2021

Self-inflicted Martyrdom

Regarding vaccination, Christians are free to choose what to do, but they need to be careful not to take on a martyr complex that is not from God. They should avoid becoming a martyr to a cause that God does not really care about, and that does not bring him glory. They should not confuse hostility from society with persecution for the name of Jesus.

Christians have a tendency to seek martyrdom that is sometimes not very healthy. When I was young, I read the accounts of the martyrs of old and thought it would be noble to die for Jesus. Now I am older and wiser, and have a family whose lives I enjoy, I am not so keen on the idea of martyrdom. I have come to realise that I am a coward and would wimp out if real persecution came. I have also learned to focus on the issues that are really important for the Kingdom of God.

The letter of 1 Peter has really good teaching about Christian suffering. Peter warns that serious followers of Jesus should expect to suffer for him. He explains that when people suffer for Jesus, the glory of the Spirit is on them.

Rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name (1 Peter 4:13,14,16).
However, Peter warns that those who suffer needlessly get no credit for it.
But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it (1 Pet 2:20)?
And also.
If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler/busybody (1 Pet 4:15).
Not many Christians should suffer these days for being a murderer or thief, but we should be careful that we do not fall into the category of meddling or being a busy body. The complicated Greek word Peter uses is “allotriepiskopos”. It means getting involved in something that is not your business or our concern. This can be a temptation for Christians, but it often produces a backlash from rulers and people with power. Those who suffer as a meddler do not carry the glory of the Spirit.

I suspect that standing against vaccination mandates falls into that category. Followers of Jesus who refuse to get vaccinated will not be recognised by society as standing for Jesus. They will just be lumped with a whole lot of angry people who are refusing to get vaccinated, some of whom are perceived to be a bit odd. Jesus will not get glory from their actions, so his glory will not be upon them. What Christians decide to do about vaccination is their business, but they should not assume that they are being persecuted for the name of Jesus, or that they are suffering for him.

In the future, as the world flexes its muscles and the respect and influence of the church declines, there will be plenty of opportunities for some Christians to suffer for the name of Jesus. Christians should be careful that they don’t waste energy suffering over pointless causes that do nothing to advance the gospel, and which will be quickly forgotten. They must be careful not to confuse self-inflicted suffering with suffering for Jesus.

I remember when credit cards were first introduced. Many Christians said that it was the beginning of the mark of the beast and refused to use them. Some said that they were going to make a stand and would never use them, but gradually over time, they quietly got a card and forgot the stand they had made. Their inconvenience and mockery might have been real, but it was not suffering for the name of Jesus.

When Christians with a tendency to martyrdom create their own suffering, they are often motivated by pride rather than love for Jesus. They assume that they are better than other Christians because they are more hardcore and therefore suffer more than others who take it easy. Some do it by pouring out their lives to meet the unreasonable demands of Churched Christians or unreasonable family members. Others do it by joining a cause that leads them to be mocked. Some feel they are persecuted, because they say blunt things that annoy other people. However, self-created martyrdom is not suffering for Jesus.

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