That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. (2 Timothy 1:12)
In every era and every culture, Christians have been regarded with ridicule and scorn by their culture as they seek to live holy lives before the Lord.
And it was particularly so for believers in the 1st century.
Ironically, Romans denounced the followers of Christ as atheists for rejecting Roman gods. Furthermore, although upholding the biblical principle of willing submission to the civil authorities as having been instituted by God (Romans 13:2), Christ-followers were regarded as in rebellion towards the state. Primarily, this charge was laid for refusing to worship Caesar as the supreme authority. First-century Christians often paid a heavy price for refusing to declare “Kaiser kurios” – Caesar is lord!
In Greco-Roman culture, believers were further ostracized for what was viewed by their peers as anti-social behaviour – refusing to participate in pagan worship, often considered a cultural norm. The social pressure was often intensified when one spouse converted to Christ and their marriage partner did not.
The charge of rejecting monotheism was levelled by unbelieving Jews. This was because early Christians declared that Jesus was God, and embraced the Bible’s teaching of the Trinity. And most absurdly, 1st century followers of Christ were accused of immorality, a distortion of something as innocent as greeting with a holy kiss.
In some ways, our 21st century is different.
We read of those experiencing heavy persecution including those striving to follow the Lord Jesus in communist or Muslim countries. But most of us have not been called to withstand that, yet.
However, if following Christ is my personal goal, I’ll be required to be courageous in the face of social pressure. Even if it raises eyebrows, am I troubled if those in my social or vocational circles know I’ve committed my life to Christ?
If I’m seeking first the kingdom of God, am I unafraid when others know I regularly read the Bible, even if that changes their opinion of me in a way that makes me less impressive in their eyes?
If my purpose is to seek first His righteousness, am I concerned about the neighbours who chuckle when they see me leave the house Sunday morning, heading to church with my Bible tucked under my arm.
Takeaway – is courage an issue in my life as a follower of Christ? Do I regularly ask God to make me a person of courage? Am I a willing witness to my culture of what it is to be a Christian? The apostles are great examples: “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)