Christianity was not served up to the world on a silver platter. It was introduced at just the right time according to Jesus. It was a time when the mighty Roman Empire held a vice-like military hold on the people. Oppression was rampant and the yoke was heavy. The sheer face of men’s wisdom hemmed them in on every side as the Hellenists substituted the wisdom from on High for the base reasoning of men. To complicate matters all the more, the Jews of the time held a stranglehold on religion and a relationship to God was replaced with counted seeds and measured steps. Man for the Sabbath, not the Sabbath for man.
Into this world of inequity came the Christ. Even His birth was perilous. Long and arduous travel, a hard manger filled with hay, and shortly after a slaughter of children which included a forced withdrawal to Egypt. Africa, home to so many refugees, even harbored our Lord.
It was in perilous times that God was magnified. It was when nations were at the end of themselves, when the ways seemed in front were not able to be crossed, and the formidable armies were in hot pursuit. What we find again and again throughout scripture is ordinary people becoming extraordinary people as perilous times made a place for greatness.
It was Paul, who boarded a ship with chains and shackles, when a hurricane turned a prisoner into a Captain. As Christians and believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have no other choice but to accept the stark realization that perilous time will come. And those perilous times are the building blocks for conquest and victory. Obstacles become stepping stones and opposition only strengthens one’s resolve for possession.
We must understand from the start, we are called to be salt and light in an ever-increasing and tasteless world that grows darker by the day. The call to discipleship is a hard one.
The stark fact is that many of us have a relaxed interest in a relationship with God, but intense interests elsewhere. We enjoy a TV thriller on Saturday night, but are disposed to church on Sunday morning. We will indulge in Christ as an adjunct of our culture, but refuse to own Him as our Sovereign Lord. We like generalizations about the teachings of Jesus, but want nothing to do with the blood of His cross. We like to talk about His life and ethics; but the Master is a Person with wounds in His hands and His feet. When Jesus bids a man, He bids him to “Come and Die.” To have these words written on our hearts is perhaps an embarrassment too great for us to bear.
To be light in a dark world, we must not only abandon, but we must embrace. Put off man-made robes of righteousness and be clothed in the robes of Christ. Let go of idols and lay hold of the Redeemer.
We must know that there is no Christ on the Christmas card or no stained glass windows mentioned in the Gospels. We are left only with the workman from Galilee with no bed for the night — the village artisan who handled nails and wood for a living, and then was nailed by His hands to wood in His death.
Thus, He comes as one of the poor unknowns of the earth declaring the “Great unknown of Heaven!” He offers no social advantages and no hope of aggrandizement. There is no dividend for the faithful and no cash bonus for the apostles. Everytime a man puts forth his foot to follow, the Nazarene puts a cross in his hand.
On He trudges down the road of Palestine to a hill called Calvary, and still there is no beauty in Him that men should desire, yet paradoxically, men trusted Him, loved Him, worshipped Him, and later even died for Him.
In the face of His coming, and in the face of His call on your life, to cling to this world and the things of this world, to pride one’s self on being someone, and having something in a planet usurping every right of its Creator is spiritual treason.
Since Cain slew Abel, men have hated men. Nations rise against nations, and kingdoms rise and fall. None of this happens without affecting those who live in that kingdom.