Yesterday and today a few of us from Trinity are attending Willow Creek’s annual Global Leadership Summit. Not surprisingly, it’s a very well-run event, giving me a lot of good questions and ideas to consider about leading well. I’m grateful to be here.
One of the most memorable moments for me came at the very end of yesterday. Patrick Lencioni (who, by the way, is a really enjoyable speaker) talked of how we who are Christians are in an age of great opportunity, but not for the reasons we might think. The opportunity comes from persecution.
Though he acknowledged that the threat we face as Christians is nothing like those endured by Christians in places like Iraq, Lencioni spoke of how surprisingly quickly our country has begun to become hostile to those who actively live out their Christian convictions. Both in our workplace and in our homes we face increasing pressure to keep our convictions private.
Our response, he argued, must not only be to avoid the temptation to cave in. We must also not become bitter.
And here’s where we find our opportunity. When Jesus speaks of persecution, he actually speaks of joy: “Blessed are you,” Jesus says, “when people revile you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.” When you face persecuted, you are given an opportunity to be glad, not bitter.
Only a few years later, the apostles live this beatitude out. Peter and John are imprisoned and subsequently beaten for speaking of Jesus. As they depart from their persecutors, their response is not fear or anger or resentment. Rather, Acts tells us that they “rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.”
Have I considered the joy that faces us in this culture change? Have we? We have before us the privilege of enduring shame because we bear the name of Christ. There is no greater honor.