This is no time for safety – Easter Sunday’s terrorist attacks on churches in Sri Lanka seems to have taken us to a new and dangerous place in the world. As the carnage and death toll reaches 300 the magnitude begins to sink in this week, and we are numbed again by the unthinkable becoming reality. Dale Hurd of CBN News reports… “Six near-simultaneous attacks on three Catholic churches and three hotels around the city of Colombo were carried out by seven suicide bombers. Inside the churches, it was utter devastation. The blasts hit during Sunday mass. Church pews were left shattered, debris was strewn everywhere, and in one church blood was splattered on a statue of Jesus. A total of nine bombings killed at least 290 people. About 500 others were wounded.”
As I considered the events of Sunday’s attacks on Christianity I was reminded of the early church and how it began. Attacks were commonplace for believers because of their faith in the Risen Savior. The name Jesus brought controversy to the forefront throughout the Middle East then as it does today. Remember, it was just four years ago that 21 Coptic Christians were beheaded by Islamic State militants on the Libyan coast.
History records for us that the name Jesus Christ has caused more division, agitation and controversy than any other. It’s just fine to bring up God in a coffee shop or a restaurant. You are free of offense to mention aloud the names Buddha or Brahman, Moses or Mohammed. However, when you mention the name Jesus Christ, it is possible that objection will arise. What is it that makes this religious leader more contentious and convicting than all the others combined? I believe that it was his unique claim. You see, he declared Himself to be God. Not a god, not god-like, but God incarnate. The Creator of the universe in standing in human flesh. Intellectually, that’s quite challenging. Spiritually, it is the greatest thing that could ever happen to humankind.
C.S. Lewis, a popular British theologian in his timeless classic Mere Christianity wrote, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Though it still isn’t safe to be a follower of Jesus Christ, it is what we are called to do. And if there is a difference to be made in the world God has entrusted to our stewardship, that difference can and should be made by us. Did you ever consider the following questions? Is the world a better place because you are a citizen of this country? Is your community a better place because you are a part of it? Is your church a better church because you are a member of it? What are you and I doing, for heaven’s sake? You see, what I’m alluding to here is a commitment to God that results in a changed heart and life which in turn shapes the culture it comes into contact with in a powerfully positive way.
It was said that before turning himself in, after being warned by his friends not to do so, the great reformer Martin Luther said, “You ask me what I shall do if I am called by the emperor. I will go even if I am too sick to stand on my feet. If Caesar calls me, God calls me. If violence is used, as well it may be, I commend my cause to God. He lives and reigns who saved the three youths from the fiery furnace of the king of Babylon, and if He will not save me, my head is worth nothing compared with Christ. This is no time to think of safety I must take care that the gospel is not brought into contempt by our fear to confess and seal our teaching with our blood.”
So, you can choose to believe it or not, that’s entirely your prerogative. However, the reality of who Jesus is and what Jesus did is something that you will have to deal with. Yes, it is dangerous, but as Martin Luther said, “this is no time to think of safety.” This is a time to believe it and live!
Tim Throckmorton is the former executive pastor for Plymouth Heights Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace, Ohio, and Portsmouth First Church of the Nazarene. He is currently senior pastor at Crossroads Church in Circleville, Ohio.