31 ledna, 2015

On possessions, eternity and drifting from the faith (from the post-Communist perspective)

I personally know a number of Christians who refused to bow down during the Communist Era and sometimes, as a result, not only they themselves, but also their families, suffered. At the same time, I know of people who were drawn away from the faith because of suffering and persecution for their faith. There is a simple equation at work here that has been used by many regimes which have tried to suppress Christianity. They began to persecute believers, expecting that it would create such fear among them, that they would renounce their faith. This equation sounds logical, but when we look at the statistics, we see that there are actually fewer and fewer Christians and churches are experiencing a constant decline in our own country as well as, for example, other countries in Europe where there is no oppression towards those of the Christian faith,. On the flip side, the greatest growth of Christians is in China and other countries where many are persecuted because of their faith. It is as if “the worse, the better” were the guiding principle; where Christians have the hardest time is where the Church is most likely to grow. It reminds me of the old saying: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

In a similar way, in the well-known parable of the sower, Jesus said that one of the reasons why people reject God’s word is persecution (Mt. 13:21), but another reason is the opposite: wealth (Mt. 13:22).
I have sometimes heard from the older generation the following statement: “We suffered for the Gospel, but we were not paralyzed by fear, and so we kept our faith.” Perhaps our generation will one day say, “Our faith didn’t cost us anything, and yet we kept our faith.” The question is which is worse (not worse for life, but for faith or for a living faith)? Persecution or comfort?  Let’s look at a comparison of factors which can uproot one’s faith.

There will always be people or governments who will forbid reading the Bible, praying or attending church. People will become afraid, and because of outside pressure, they will fall away.
Thanks to busyness, Christians do not even open their Bibles, do not find the time to pray, and they have turned the church into a social club. In the end, they fall away because they simply stop feeling the need for faith.

Fear of persecution turns many away from following Christ.
Fear of not making enough money, and building one’s life on the motto “make more”, turn many away from following Christ.

Following Christ will cost so much that only a few will be willing to follow.
The pursuit of the latest novelty or innovation will cost so much that there will be no time left to follow Christ.

Those who follow Christ will appear to be enemies of society, and this reality will cause such fear in Christians that they will fall away.
Those who follow Christ will appear “out-of-date” and that will turn them away.

A lack of good information about Christianity draws many away from the faith.
The overabundance of all kinds of information about all kinds of things in the end leads people to intellectual passivity and indifference, which draws many away from the faith.

That which we fear is that which destroys us (pressure, injustice, imprisonment, etc.)
That which we love is that which destroys us (possessions, comfort, consumerism, etc.)

Thirst for God has been replaced by the desire to survive.
Thirst for God has been replaced by the desire to have the good life.

I don’t think I need to point out where the danger lies for the Church in Czech Republic…
If you look back at the history of God’s people, you’ll find an interesting pattern. When God was preparing someone for something big, he often put him in a position where he was lacking in material provisions. In Abraham’s case, a rich man became a nomad; Moses the prince became Moses the shepherd; Joseph, the son of a rich father, became a convict. David wrote many psalms while he was an outlaw; Nehemiah left the palace for the ruins; Job went from the top to the ash heap. All the prophets basically lived in greatly uncertain circumstances. The Lord brought the Israelites through 40 years in the wilderness. Those 40 years became an archetype of the 40 days Christ spent in the desert. We don’t see this pattern in the lives of all he heroes of the faith, but we do in many. They lost a part of their material security, so that God could work with them. Many of them lost not, for example, their health, but their possessions. Why?
In light of this, I would like to point out one more thing—when you read Jesus’ parables, you see that many of them deal with riches. The kingdom of God is like...and usually something follows about possessions, about something material. Why? Why didn’t God choose something more spiritual in his word? Why did he go for the possessions of so many people of faith?                       

Probably because God knows that possessions are very, very important to people and that they greatly fear losing them.
Basically, there is something irresistible about material possessions—they give you the feeling of security, they give you joy, they enable a comfortable lifestyle, they give freedom, and often they also give a sense a power. If you have everything, you don’t need to fear so much.

It seems as if our enemy—Satan—said something like this: “I can’t draw away most Christians with evil, so I will do the exact opposite. I will give them everything a person could want—especially possessions, perhaps power and fame, an infinite number of possibilities to ‘become someone’—and in this way I will destroy them.“ And as we have seen, it really works. Where Christians have lived and live in prosperity, the Church usually stagnates.
I don’t think that wealth in and of itself kills faith and the spiritual life. Faith is killed when wealth, as well as success, self-realization and the security that comes from these, become one’s purpose for living.Then it is only one step away from the point when one stops living for others and for God.

In the book of Proverbs we read, “God has put eternity in our hearts“—that is, there is in our hearts a longing that cannot be filled on this earth, because material things and people are not eternal. And yet we long for eternity and somehow need to fill that longing. Of course God is the one who can fill that longing, but when God is distant, we automatically seek fulfillment in something or someone else. That is why we are incapable of saying, „Enough!“ and instead we are always wanting more. More possessions, more recognition, more success, more, more, more.

And so it happens that the gift of abundance, contentment, many opportunities and relative comfort becomes a trap. Or, in the words of the title of this chapter, it is not necessary to fear persecution, whose goal is to kill one’s faith, because faith is killed by....

1 komentář:

Emilka řekl(a)...

very well written! You showed the balance like in Proverbs 30,9: Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the LORD?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.