(I couldn’t decide which was more pretentious: thinking that my words were apt for the suffering believers in Roseburg, Oregon this weekend; or pressing on with my next post without honoring them. I decided to risk my words.)
A question arose in our small group this week: “Why do you think people don’t read the Bible more?”
I think most people don’t see the Bible as good news.
We see it as a list of rules and expectations, a litany of warnings and harbingers, and endless reminders of our inadequacy and our need for God.
Honestly, those are part of the deal. There is a price tag when we launch out to follow Christ. “Don’t begin until you count the cost,” He warns in Luke 14:28 (NLT). He’s not a Savior to be tailored, streamlined, or optimized to meet our user preferences. We’re the ones who need to be tailored.
But look what we’re getting in return!
Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. (Revelation 2:10b)
Today, as the nation mourns with Roseburg, God indeed offers good news.
Last Thursday in Roseburg, believers received their crown. A shooter walked into a college classroom, asked students to stand if they called themselves Christians, and ended the earthly lives of those who stood.
I ache with those who lost their loved ones. No words of mine could suffice to dignify this for them. May God grant them peace.
Yet as I walked downstairs yesterday to a CNN briefing on the television, I heard a lawman give this statement from the family of one of the martyrs: “Jason Johnson, age 34, was proud to be a Christian.”
Amazing. Already, even in their unspeakable grief, this family floods the airwaves with the name of Christ.
The martyrs of Roseburg had a choice. They knew what was coming when they were asked to stand; the shooter had already made his weapon known. They could have denied Christ for their own (temporary) physical safety. Instead, they made the most significant choice an immortal human soul could ever make. They announced their allegiance to Jesus. They stood.
They paid a price. But although hearts are rightfully heavy in Roseburg, God promises a great reward for that price. Although sorrow lasts through the night, joy comes in the morning.
The word “gospel” means “good news”. It tells of the hope we have. No other source tells of the resounding vindication that our loving God offers for our trials – a “crown of life”, as other translations have Revelation 2:10. Through Christ, we have eternal escape from the sentence of sin and the claim of the enemy.
What if we saw the Bible in that light? I’d wager we would find a hunger to know more.
Although I do not know how many of the parents were believers, I pray for the ones who were. I pray they find comfort from God, that they trained up their children to make a choice that will resound through the ages. Already Satan’s purposes are backfiring. #yesimachristian is all over the place. Let us avoid the distractions of railing about atheism or gun control. Let the nation once again witness the Christian’s hope that surpasses death.
Ignatius, a second-century bishop threatened with the wild beasts, is said to have “asked his friends not to try to save him and so rob him of the crown of immortality.” There is a cost to our faith – sometimes the ultimate one. But Ignatius saw the prize as worth it.
So did our brothers and sisters in Roseburg.
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” – Jim Elliott