“All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you …” John 16:1-4, NIV
We all want to hear that our future will be bright, because we follow in Christ’s footsteps as his disciples. We believe that his wounds have brought us healing (Isaiah 53:5). We believe that God will provide for every need we may encounter, when we are serving him (2 Peter 1:3). All these verses are true. However, God’s children still encounter difficult times in this world. If we consider Jesus’ words carefully, he never promised us an easy life when we follow him. He said that the gate to heaven is small and the path there narrow (Matthew 7:14). He warned that whoever wished to follow him should be willing to take up their own cross, forsake their own life, to walk in his footsteps (Matthew 16:24).
Jesus has also prepared the future church for difficult times as the end of time approaches. People will kill other people in the name of religion, thinking that their killings will honour God. History has proven this tendency; it is still happening today. People of faith are willing to kill other people who do not believe exactly the same as themselves. However, Jesus warns that killers don’t know the heart of the Father or him, as the Saviour of mankind. The Father has sent the Son from a position of love, to come and save this world (John 3:16; 15:9). The heart of the gospel is the message of God’s love for mankind, as it became flesh in Christ. There is no reason to kill another human being in the name of God! We stand ashamed of some of the cruel things that happened in church history, like the crusades and the Spanish Inquisition. Jesus’ message does not include killing and violence. He came to offer the world a new way of life, a life filled with love in relationship to a loving, graceful God.
Jesus warns that persecution and difficult times in a believer’s life is not unexpected. The world has persecuted him before us; we follow his lead. We cannot expect to be treated differently than he was. But this encourages us to reach out to the people around us with even more love and kindness, to share the light and love of Christ that they so desperately need.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, every one of us has already experienced pain in our journey by following in your footsteps. Help me to never react with anger and violence, but help me to share your message of hope and love by example. Amen.