Going back briefly to our conversation about the sacred and the profane from last week, allow me another observation. Have you seen Jerry Wayne’s latest Papa John’s Pizza commercial?
I was so shocked and appalled that I replayed it two times last night to make sure I was really seeing what I was seeing: the owner of the Dallas Cowboys in outrageously exaggerated Cowboys pajamas and slippers, cuddling and carressing the Vince Lombardi Super Bowl trophy and, in his sleep, comparing the greatness of winning an NFL Championship with eating a Papa John’s pizza. Here’s the commercial if you haven’t seen it yet.
You would not use a communion tray as a spitoon, a baptistry for a hot tub party, or the worship center to screen a rated-R mobster flick. And you certainly would never use the Super Bowl trophy to sell pizza in your pajamas! The man has no shame. No dignity. It’s embarrassing. I’m convinced there’s nothing — NOTHING — he won’t do for money.
You just thought Ameriquest Field was a horrible name for the Ballpark in Arlington. Brace yourself.
According to the Religious Liberty Commission 200-million Christians today live with serious persecution: threatened with prison and violence for their faith. An additional 400-million face “non-trivial restrictions to their freedom and the loss of many basic human rights, simply because they choose to love and follow Jesus.”
Nina Shea, the director of the Freedom House Program on Religion, claims “Christians are in fact the most persecuted religious group in the world today, with the greatest numbers of victims.”
More than a few sources confirm there were more Christians killed — martyred — for their faith in the 20th century than in the first 19 centuries combined.
I’m not sure how we relate to this. Our own persecutions, if we have any at all, don’t even register a blip compared to this. I’m humbled and hurt by the realization that our brothers and sisters with whom we unite in our worship to God and in our communion around his table are being persecuted in ways we can never imagine. Millions and millions of our brothers and sisters are being persecuted.
Why aren’t we?
Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:12 that everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ will be persecuted.
Why aren’t we?
Is it because we live in the United States? Is it because we’re lucky?
As we get into 1 Thessalonians 3 this Sunday at Legacy we’ll notice that first century Christians were persecuted because they lived in a way that threatened the culture. The values of the believers starkly contrasted the values of their neighbors.
They lived in an intolerant pagan empire. We live in a tolerant pagan empire.
The god of the Roman Empire was the emperor. And if you didn’t burn incense to the emperor, you were arrested. One of the gods of our empire is nationalism. And I wonder why we take our hats off for the National Anthem at a football game but we cringe when somebody wants to say a prayer before dinner at Chili’s. Our other god in the U.S. is consumerism. And I wonder why so many of us spend 10 or 20 times more on gadgets and technology and entertainment than we give to the church. First century Christians were persecuted because they stopped attending the civic feasts. But if our kids have a ball game or we have another type of civic event to attend, we’ll skip our own church assembly to be there and not even blink. Actors who became Christians quit the theater because the plays all presupposed the existance and activity of pagan gods. And I wonder about the movies we watch and the music we listen to that glamourize our nation’s gods of sex and violence and greed.
I’m not trying to beat us up. I just want us to think.
Michael W. Holmes says, “Christians in the United States are in greater danger of being seduced by non-Christian cultural values than of being persecuted by them.” It’s a very subtle thing. And we need to be aware of the devil’s schemes.
We’re heading out to Liberty City in East Texas this afternoon to spend the evening and most of the day tomorrow at my parents’ house with Geoff and Rhonda and their three kids from Edmond and Keith and Amanda and their three kids from Searcy. Brent and Sharon and their two kids are busy with school stuff and a 25th wedding anniversary party, so we won’t see them much. But I do love having the whole family together like this. I’m very much looking forward to it. It seems that everytime we’re together — and it’s not nearly as often as it should be — we laugh and laugh and laugh until it hurts.
Growing up, we all lived in the same part of East Dallas. We went to church together and had meals together all the time with our grandmother and all the uncles and aunts and cousins. Most of our stories and laughter today stem from those days of all being together as a family when we were kids. And today we’re so spread out, separated in three different states, 5-7 hours away from everybody. Our children can’t wait for weekends like this to be with their cousins because they only happen two or three times a year. I regret it. And I don’t know what to do about it. It seems all our families are like this now.
If your family is still all together in the same area, count your blessings. Don’t take that for granted. It’s becoming increasingly rare.
I’m blessed to be in such a loving and caring family, united by our common love for each other and our common faith in God through Jesus. And I can’t wait to see everybody tonight.
As I sit and ponder my first college pick-em league and first football fantasy league, I am reminded of another god that occupies my thoughts constantly during the fall. The gods of this age are subtle which makes them extraordinarily lethal to our allegiance to God. We should not be so quick to point our finger at the Israelites in Canaan who committed spiritual adultery with the Canaanite gods. I find myself (pardon the metaphor) constantly struggling with my fidelity. I appreciate your courage and honesty in taking up some not so popular subjects. If persecution is what you want, then keep challenging us to look at life through the heavenly perspective. This is what the prophets did, and they suffered for it like our brothers and sisters in foreign lands are experiencing right now. Peace.
No need to pardon the metaphor. It IS the metaphor! Adultery. It always has been since the beginning, especially with the prophets. And I totally understand the Israelites in Canaan.
Christians are so aghast and horrified when archaeologists discover an Israelite four-room house with pagan idols and shrines in it or when they find Israelite references to Yahweh being married to Asherah. That can’t be! They didn’t worship the true and living God AND pagan idols! Oh, yes they did. It’s obvious throughout Scripture and backed up by tons of archaeological evidence. And my question is, how are we any different? Would the apostle Paul or maybe Christians three or four centuries from now be just as appalled by what they would find in our houses? Would they be shocked that professing Christians would spend our money in the ways we spend it? Would our music and movie collections surprise them? Would a glance through our dayplanners blow them away?
Here’s a question I’m going to ask in the sermon Sunday: How can Satan persecute the believers if he can’t tell them apart from the unbelievers? Or why would he persecute the church if the church looks & acts just like the world?
Charlie, thank you for your thoughts. I think my children, maybe, and my grandchildren, possibly, and my great-grandchildren, probably, will face similar physical persecution in the U.S. for their faith that people in other parts of the world are suffering now. Whether it’s because our nation is becoming less Christian or we’re becoming more like Christ, it’s coming. And our God will use that persecution to fulfill his purposes for his people and his church.
Thank you for speaking out about persecution. I am saddened that so many suffer for their faith. I am saddened even more when I think about how the things of this world “choke out” our faith. We and those we love the most are surrounded so many negative influences. We must intentionally keep our minds on what Christ did for us so our priorities are not misplaced.
Allen writes: “How can Satan persecute the believers if he can’t tell them apart from the unbelievers?”
Ouch! That stings.
I also appreciate your statement, “I’m not trying to beat us up. I just want us to think.” We need these reminders and promptings.
You know, Allan, I have actually seriously considered using the baptistery for a hot tub. Not necessarily a big party. But I’m not against it. So don’t take it as a given that Christians wouldn’t do that.
It seems you’ve accidentally wandered into a website devoted to the theological reflection and discussion of spiritual matters and inadvertently entered a conversation regarding such matters ill-equipped to contribute. Don’t you have a volleyball net to set up?
Shouldn’t you be on your way to Opie’s?