I couldn’t believe my eyes. I wanted to reach my hand through the computer screen and punch these anonymous cowards in the face. I had opened my email to be notified of the latest comment on FlatOnMyBack.com only to once again see a barrage of messages laced with vulgarity, mocking my condition being physically paralyzed and calling into question the validity of my faith. There is nothing that screams “courage” quite like typing out hateful words behind an anonymous name while hiding behind a computer screen.
Why me? I wasn’t supposed to get stuff like that. I assumed backlash like this was for well-known pastors and evangelists who sit on street corners. People who stick their neck out in the public eye. Not some obscure 25-year-old who started a blog about his journey with a spinal cord injury, who just happens to incorporate his faith.
Was I doing something wrong? Was I in denial? Why were random people so bothered by my blog? I began to second-guess my words. As paranoia rose about what else could be in store and as I wondered if this was just the tip of the iceberg, I sought out something to distract me and settled on mindless reading by pulling up my Twitter feed. Smack dab at the top, tweeted out just minutes prior, was the following:
I didn’t realize I had signed up for war by following Jesus, but the Bible makes it abundantly clear that resistance is part of the deal. 2 Timothy 3:12 says, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Jesus doesn’t mince words, he tells his followers, “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22)
Jesus did not give me the option to toe the line on where I stand or to cater to our culture’s view of “believe whatever you want, as long as it doesn’t offend anyone else.” In fact, Jesus Himself was the most offensive person that ever walked the planet. He could not have drawn the line any clearer than by saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
This past week I was reminded of the chilling reality that persecution is taken to an entirely different level in other parts the world. I read an article that Kim Jong-un ordered the execution of 33 Christians in North Korea. Their offense? Organizing to start a group of churches. 33 people. Executed. For attempting to have the opportunity to do something that millions of Americans have the freedom to do every single week.
A slew of nasty emails is child’s play compared to what others are experiencing. This blog is just a bunch of words. It costs me absolutely nothing to write. I am free to say whatever I want here without fear that it will cost me or my loved ones their lives.
Maybe the emails received over the past few months were to serve as a wake-up call. Maybe just a small fraction of a taste of what persecution could entail. Regardless, I’m thankful to notice a change in how I look at it. From now on, the next time on email comes (or any other form of resistance), I want to first and foremost keep it in perspective by focusing on those who are facing far more brutal environments around the world. Whatever may come, I want my posture to be that of Peter and the other apostles who, after getting beaten and imprisoned, began proclaiming, “We were counted worthy to suffer for the sake of Christ!” (Acts 5:41). If that’s what it takes, I want to be all in.
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