There is no doubt that many Christians love Jesus, eulogize Him, extol him with words of praises, but what I am not sure about is how many Christians would be willing to stake their lives for Him, His name and His kingdom. Many do not want to hear of dying for Him. The majority of Christians believe that since He had suffered and died for us, that His suffering and death has covered us from unpleasant experiences in life.
A close look at the scripture tells us otherwise. Jesus in his own word hinted to us of the possibility of believers dying for His sake and gaining life back in the world to come (Mathew 10:39). Christ in His letter to the church in Smyrna encouraged the Church to remain steadfast amid persecutions even unto death (Revelation 2:10). In His letter to the church in Pergamum, He commended Antipas for volunteering to die for Him (Revelation 2:13). He specifically told John in the vision of the Island of Patmos that those who were beheaded for His sake will rule with Him during the thousand year rule (Revelation 20:4).
If these are the views of Christ, can we begin to see Christianity in another perspective? There is no doubt that God heals, delivers, blesses, promotes His children, etc., but Christianity is more than meeting the needs and solving the problems of its adherents. Our ability to learn from Christ will help us to understand that the difficult part of Christianity is the part that has eternal value. Apostle Paul made it clear that if our hope in Christ is all about solution to earthly problem, then we are of all men most miserable ( 1 Corinthians 15:19).
Hermeneutical perversion and unbalanced message are the greatest challenge of the Christian faith globally. If preachers should relay the word of God undiluted and holistically, today's Christianity would have been very impactful in the world. The idea of selective Gospel has done more harm than good to the body of Christ and perverted interpretation has made the Gospel watered down and ineffective. Many who come to Christ were not told that there are prices to be paid for following Jesus and this has resulted in babyish, weak and selfish Christians who are not ready to pass through suffering or even to make supreme sacrifices for Jesus whom we claim that we love so much.
Most Christians do not know that there are serious responsibilities that are associated with identifying with Christ. Christ Himself likened following Him to building a tower and going to war and demanded that everyone who wants to be His disciple should first of all count the cost to know if he has all the tenacity needed for the Christian race (Luke 14:31). Jesus did not in any way tell us that following Him will be easy. Rather, He enjoined us to deny ourselves, hate ourselves and carry our crosses before we can be qualified to follow Him.
No one understands the nitty-gritty of the Christian faith more than Christ Himself. He knows the requirements more than any mortal. While claiming scriptural verses of blessings and promises of God, Christians should pay special attention to the word of the founder of the Christian faith. Why He boldly exhorted to His disciples about suffering without considering the harshness of His words was to prepare them for the inevitable suffering and death they would face for His sake. Had it not been for Christ radicalizing the first generation of disciples himself, they wouldn't have been able to pass through all the difficulties, endure all the persecution and finally endure the pain of crucifixion and beheading.
Christian martyrdom is the greatest privilege that God has given to believers. When Stephen was stoned to death, the scripture described the scene as glorious. Apostle Paul understood the mystery attached to this privilege and was eager to go to Jerusalem and die for His master. Have we wondered why almost all the first generation apostles had to pass through the same process of martyrdom?
Christians who were martyred have the privilege of receiving the crown of life and the privilege of ruling with Christ in the Millennium. Persons like Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Pete Fleming, Roger Youderian readily come to my mind whenever I think about avoiding the works of missions because of fear of being killed. These young men knew the danger of leaving the United States to evangelize the Huaorani people of Ecuador but they chose to risk their lives for the sake of Christ.
Their leader Jim Elliot said: "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose". This quote has been a source of inspiration to me whenever I am overwhelmed with fear of being murdered while trying to reach the unreached. Jim and his four friends were murdered by the same people they wanted to evangelize but they have lost their transient lives to gain the everlasting crown of life.
When Christ gave conditions necessary for following Him, He included the death condition for us to grasp what is involved in the Christian project. "Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it’"(Mathew 16:24-25). Many Christians see martyrdom and Christian suffering as strange concepts but Christ was not afraid to state these conditions during His earthly ministry. Today's Church would do better to not run away from this reality of the Christian faith.