There are persecutions. There are trials. There are hardships in following Jesus. There is a fault line between the way of the world and the way of Jesus. But none of these are along the lines of what I see and hear in Christian culture. What we call persecutions often are not. Where the real persecutions are we almost always ignore.
If you’ve listened to our podcast, know I’m not a big fan of Christian subculture and especially its commercial expressions and this is at the heart of why. It offers a skewed version of the Christian faith to sell products to people with money. The creators of Christian subculture tweak their pitch, not toward faithfulness to the Gospel, but toward giving the customer what they want. And what the customers want is to feel good about where they are, not to feel pressure to to conform to the likeness of Christ and his cross. Christian swag companies sell a lot of crosses but they do so by peddling a very anti-cruciform lifestyle.
As part of that, they re-narrate what it means to carry one’s cross, to be persecuted, and so they pervert the way of Jesus precisely at the heart of the way Jesus. In fact, they play up their warped version of persecution because it creates a felt need and sells more product. Some Christians today are persecution hypochondriacs. Christianity is not under attack like they think. Christianity is under attack by the way they think. Despite how the Christian retail marketers try to sell us, Christianity is not under attack in the way they claim. There are persecutions. There our hardships. There are crosses to be carried. But they’re not the ones we’re being sold.
This is what we’re going to talk about at Vineyard North between now and Advent. The persecution/pressure/pursuit that Jesus claims is a blessing to us, this comes at the fault line between the world and the kingdom of God. We’ve been told the fault line is in one place but it’s not. It’s somewhere else altogether. We’ve got to rid ourselves of this persecution hypochondria and pursue the justice of the kingdom of God. We will find real pressure and real pursuit and it will be a blessing to us. In many ways it already is because our church has been living on this fault line and doing some of this implicitly for the past three years. But it’s time to be explicit. It’s time to embrace the challenge more fully than we have yet. It’s time to run, to chase and be chased.
And look, we know the outcome. There is no doubt. The pursuit helps us reach our stride, helps us pursue justice, mercy, compassion, kindness, and we find that running with the love of God to the world is a run we can enjoy. And then we get the prize.