Do not be afraid — this is ex­pected

The Covington News - - LOCAL - Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pas­tor of Abid­ing Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Wor­ship ev­ery Sun­day is at 8 & 10:30am. Full ser­mons and more in­for­ma­tion can be found at www.abid­ing­

Me­riam Yahia Ibrahim. Have you heard that name? On May 11th of this year she was con­victed of apos­tasy and adul­tery. What had she done? Well, she was a Chris­tian, hav­ing been raised by her Chris­tian mom. But since her dad was a Mus­lim, even though he had been ab­sent, since he was a Mus­lim – her be­ing a Chris­tian was apos­tasy. And then, she mar­ried a Chris­tian and got preg­nant. And since she was sup­posed to be a Mus­lim, and he wasn’t a Mus­lim man, that’s adul­tery. The Su­danese govern­ment gave her three days to re­ject the Chris­tian faith and call her­self a Mus­lim. She didn’t. So, on May 15th, she was sen­tenced to 100 lashes and death. While she was wait­ing for that, in prison, she gave birth to her child while shack­led to the floor. All of that could have been avoided if she just would have told them she wasn’t trust­ing in Je­sus. But she re­fused. She would rather die. Now, of course, in­ter­na­tional pres­sure and at­ten­tion has since re­sulted in her charges be­ing dropped, but she had no way of know­ing that. And it’s not like she’s out of the woods, ei­ther. As of last week, she was still in cus­tody, this time for some “is­sues with her pa­per­work” as she was try­ing to get on an air­plane with her fam­ily. All of this be­cause she could not help but con­fess what Je­sus means to her.

In the sec­tion of Scrip­ture we look at today, Matthew 10:24-33, Je­sus says to ex­pect that. Here he is send­ing out his 12 dis­ci­ples for their work. And lead­ing up to the sec­tion we have be­fore us, Je­sus tells them they’ll be hated, that he’s send­ing them out like sheep among wolves, that they will be per­se­cuted, flogged and ar­rested. He says to ex­pect it. Verse 24: “A stu­dent is not above his teacher, nor a ser­vant above his master. 25 It is enough for the stu­dent to be like his teacher, and the ser­vant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelze­bub, how much more the mem­bers of his house­hold!” They per­se­cuted God’s own Son – of course they are go­ing to per­se­cute you, he says. And he doesn’t re­ally give you an optout clause. Look at how our text ends. Verse 32: “Who­ever ac­knowl­edges me be­fore men, I will also ac­knowl­edge him be­fore my Fa­ther in heaven. 33 But who­ever dis­owns me be­fore men, I will dis­own him be­fore my Fa­ther in heaven.”

Me­riam Yahia Ibrahim re­ally had no choice, did she? Nei­ther do we. Je­sus makes that clear today by putting our wit­ness­ing in the light of eter­nity. When it is all said and done – what mat­ters? Whether we’re liked here or wel­comed in heaven? Whether we suf­fer some here or for­ever in hell? Is do­ing what Je­sus tells us to do here worth it? Of course, when you look at it in its true per­spec­tive, in the light of Judg­ment Day, the an­swer is easy. But how of­ten does it hap­pen that we don’t look at it like that? Could you have done what Me­riam did? Could you do what the dis­ci­ples were asked to do? Each of them were will­ing to (and most did) die in or­der to speak the truth.

My good­ness, we of­ten cave for so much less. Think about it – what we go through is noth­ing com­pared to that and yet too of­ten we fail to speak up for the truth. Af­ter all, to claim that Je­sus is the only way to sal­va­tion could seem prej­u­diced against non-Chris­tians. They might think we’re not open minded. Who are we to say they’re wrong?

Or how about the sins our so­ci­ety is cham­pi­oning as free­dom and right? Hobby Lobby just barely won the right not to be forced to pay for their em­ploy­ees to mur­der their ba­bies – 5-4 in the Supreme Court. One sin­gle vote. What hap­pens when just one jus­tice changes for next time?

Or how about the news peo­ple or sports per­son­al­i­ties who have said they be­lieve ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity is im­moral be­cause God says so – and they’ve lost their jobs; they’ve had ca­reer doors closed? And you’ve been faced with choices on whether to speak up for the truth or not – at work, in your neigh­bor­hood, even in your fam­ily. Wouldn’t it be eas­ier to just keep your mouth shut? Yes, it would be eas­ier – for now. And for all the times we’ve an­swered as if “now” was more im­por­tant than eter­nity, re­al­ize what Je­sus says here. We de­serve him to dis­own us, to con­demn us, to deny us, to say “I never knew you.”

Kind of like Peter. Re­mem­ber that? In that high priest’s court­yard, three times he de­nied even know­ing Je­sus, just be­cause of the pres­sure of the sit­u­a­tion he found him­self in. But when the rooster crowed, when he re­al­ized what he did – he was crushed with guilt. And just as im­por­tantly – re­mem­ber what Je­sus did about that. He sought him out. He won his for­give­ness and he de­clared his for­give­ness. He re­in­stated him and gave him a job to do. Same thing he’s done with you. Even with all your past fail­ures he is now send­ing you out as sheep among wolves. Be­ing a Chris­tian means that you are his wit­ness, you are his worker. This isn’t a choice for you. You are be­ing sent out. And that means you will face prob­lems.

Now I re­al­ize, just know­ing it is com­ing isn’t the whole an­swer. That’s where verses 26-31 come in. That’s where Je­sus tells why we don’t have to fear what is com­ing. Make sure you come back to this col­umn next Fri­day and we’ll see just how com­pletely Je­sus re­moves our fear to be what he has made us. In the mean­time, go with God.



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