At the beginning of 2021, I was able to witness a positive historical moment (among many tragic ones), and that was the inauguration of the United States' first female, Asian- and African-American Vice President. Though I disagree with her on a few political issues, I respect her work ethic and grace, and I believe in the positive significance of her election.
But her election was rightfully more meaningful for my wife, Asian-American women and African-American women. Vice President Harris, after her election, did give recognition to such women, often disrespected, undervalued and/or invisible, as the ones upon whose shoulders she stands. It got me thinking about whose shoulders I stand upon.
Rewind to a conference I attended in Los Angeles in 2013. A guest speaker, a Christian from Palestine, was frustrated. He said that, from his experience, American Christians like to think of themselves as participating in a movement that is approximately 200 years old, whereas the Gospel is thousands of years old.
Perhaps, as Americans, we like to think about innovations from the cloud of witnesses, but the truth is that we owe them gratitude for their suffering (categorized into physical violence, slander and/or poverty). Christians owe the Church's continued existence and every victory to the suffering of Jesus and Christian forefathers.
It was through suffering, of course, that Jesus paid the penalty for our wrongdoing.
It was through suffering that the early Church survived at all.
It was through suffering that the Reformation didn't get silenced by corrupt leadership.
It was through suffering that non-white Christians were able to build flourishing churches in the United States, despite the hurdles from the cultural majority.
And it is through suffering that, churches continue to meet underground across the world, for thousands of years.
Also across thousands of years, Christians have always had (and still have) the opportunity to avoid the suffering. The problem is that this most likely involves a public renunciation of faith in Jesus Christ or a compromise with the Scriptural principles we're taught. Many Christians have avoided types of suffering, nonetheless. Maybe us American folk think that suffering is for those who aren't thorough or practical enough with their life and it can ultimately be optional as a Christian.
Some Christians rather try to invent a way to be faithful to Scripture and still not suffer. (Americans, as I said before, do like innovation). But this still misses the point that Jesus told we would suffer for him. Every innovation in ministry, no matter how much its helped the cause of the Gospel (e.g. the printing press, the internet, organizations, methods, historical figures' work) is rendered useless if Christians are not willing to suffer for the name of Jesus. He rewarded churches in Revelation 2-3, one for their hard work, but most for their suffering, never for their innovation.
So, as we celebrate Good Friday and the sacrifice of Jesus, may we acknowledge that we will (if we're not already) suffer for His name. It is part of the cost of Scriptural faithfulness, and it will be rewarded.
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