The Church Will Suffer, and I’m Okay with That

By Jaime Nava

The United States feels like it’s in a tail spin, at least to me. More than likely, I think the next president will be a goon. Subjective morality has become the local truth which is no truth at all without absolute truth. Socialism is the glimmer in the eye of so many millennials now. We’re setting ourselves up for the same wall that Germany and Russia ran into. First, we’ll try to be great one last time only to get kicked in the nuts as a nation. Next, we’ll sulk and blame the old ways for all the troubles. Following that will be a leader who promises to send us to greatness. He’ll do this with total control because the people want him to have it. With each and every step, the church will be relegated to a room, then a corner, then finally kicked out. We’ll lose exempt status. We’ll lose freedom to speak. We’ll lose our pastors to prisons. It’s not alarmist; it’s history repeating.

Since it’s the internet, I have to disclaim that I don’t think we should sit back and let things happen to the Church, mmkay? I am not saying that we stop preaching. I am not saying we should not vote. I’m not saying anything like that. I am looking into the past and watching it make another loop. I’m also not fatalistic. It’s possible that none of what I think will happen will happen. I think it will, though.

Our era of peace in the Church in the US is approaching an end point, and I’m okay with that. Although I do prefer times of peace, it’s not always beneficial for the Church. Consider how Constantinianism (bringing together of Church and State) has also led to deep corruption in the Church’s past. In Luther’s day, monasteries and convents were sold out from others to the highest bidder in Rome. Clergy had their own brothels set aside just for them. How special! The central tenet of Christianity, Christ, went to the wayside while what we do to inherit eternal life took the fore. Are we so naive to think that the United States has been a paragon of Christian living? In what century has the United States of America ever seen a golden age? Was it the one where men would spend their money drinking and gambling away their income? Was it the hyper response to remove alcohol from society altogether? Was it during the roaring 20s? I might say that the Greatest Generation who saw such horrors and atrocities had to at least appreciate what freedom is. Let’s be honest, people may have gone to church more on Sundays, but do you think that those people were any less sinners than today? If you think so, I’ve got a bridge for sale.

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In times of greatest sorrow and persecution, the Church thrives. The scales of material desire, hedonism with Christian clothing, and greed are peeled from our eyes with force. We are left to stare into the face of a bloodied Savior. We are asked the question, “Is this really what you say you are?” It’s in the hard times that we see what God is made of. It’s in our weakness that He is strong. It’s in groaning that words cannot articulate that the Holy Spirit intercedes. As many have said on social media, Jesus is King, and no earthly ruler will save the day. It’s because Jesus died that we have Easter. It’s because the early Church got it so wrong that we have so many of Paul’s letters. It’s also because they suffered that we have them too. It’s because John was on Patmos and the Church was being killed for believing in the Lord that we have Revelation. It’s in our times of real persecution and suffering that Christ shines.

I hate the idea of suffering. What I hate even more is that my children and grandchildren will suffer on a grander scale. I don’t want it for anybody because suffering sucks. This is what Paul said, ”Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5) As a culture, maybe even as a Church in the US, we have lost a lot of hope and character. We can trust that in the time of suffering, Christ will develop the endurance we need for those things to blossom. So I expect suffering to happen sometime in the near future, and I’m okay with that, not because I want it, but because I believe in what it produces in Christ. Besides, God will never give us more than He can handle.

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2 thoughts on “The Church Will Suffer, and I’m Okay with That

  1. There is a sense that, in not suffering, in embracing outward hegemony, the Adversary lured the Church to sleep. The Church is not the Church when it is not persecuted:

    “They must be righteous, quiet, obedient, ready to serve their rulers and everyone else with body and wealth, doing no one any harm. But no people on earth must endure such bitter hatred. They must be worse than Jews, heathen, Turks; they must be called heretics, knaves, devils, accursed, and the worst people in the world, to the point where they are “doing God service” who hang them, drown them, slay them, torture them, hunt them down, plague them to death, and where no one has pity on them, but gives them myrrh and gall to drink, when they thirst, — not because they are adulterers, murderers, thieves or scoundrels, but because they will to have Christ alone, and no other God. Where you see or hear this, there know that the holy Christian Church is, as He says, in Matthew 5:11, “Blessed are ye, when men curse you and reject your name as an evil, wicked thing for my sake. Be glad and rejoice, for your reward in heaven is great.” (Martin Luther, On The Councils and The Church)

    We actually assumed the opposite role and sat in judgment, condemning others as beneath us and lording worldly power and the sword over people as the false church, the Papacy, had. In suffering, carry and lifting up the Cross of Christ, we triumph over evil. In putting down the cross to combat evil with our own power and merit, we are defeated. No one looks for suffering or desires it, but the absence of suffering as a natural consequence of the world’s hating Christ ought to have examined our teaching, our preaching, and our faithfulness. We should never accept peace on the world’s terms or participate in a worldly peace. All we can say is that we worked with the Prince of this world to accuse and deny grace.

    You see, it was not socialism which caused the Church to falter and there is no danger that all ownership will become public and private property wholly confiscated. Worldly powers will not permit it. Why would the Adversary bother when profit, and property, and contentment have proven so successful in making Christians put down their crosses and remains successful as the accusatory, moralizing force necessary to keeping Christians focused on the merit and sins of others? We are mighty sinners, immoral people, every one of us. Our message is not morality, it is salvation. Until we have been justified, until we are being sanctified in our life of works, works have no value and we should not preach works for the sake of our own peace and security.

    If we lose exempt status, we will occupy other spaces, private homes and buildings, perhaps. A return to roots, a movement away from the institutional church, mixing in with the everyday life of people. We cannot be muzzled and I have no worries that we will be. It is far better for the world if we continue to speak and they retain the ability to abuse us and pull us down to their level in reasoned debate. Lift high the cross and show the world our Strength. We live in wonderful times, full of great opportunity in a growing mission field here in the US as nominal Christians join the ranks of the unchurched and unaffiliated.

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