"Saul, meanwhile, was trying to destroy the Church; entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment. Now those who had been scattered went about preaching the word." Acts 8: 3-4
It is startling to hear about Saul's (St Paul's) violent assault on those professing faith in Jesus. It is one thing to attack men physically, but dragging women out of their homes and throwing them into prison tells us not only about Saul's vitriol, but about the level of upset the Jewish community had with those who would soon be called Christians. Violence against women, and others without social standing, is always a sign of a person or culture that is out of control.
At the same time, it is important for us to hear about and accept how difficult life was for the first Christians. Not only did the followers of Jesus venture forth into a hostile Gentile world, they felt enormous pressure from within the community out of which they came. In order to follow Jesus, they risked everything, and eventually lost everything, even their lives. But it was the promise that when they lost their lives they would gain eternal life that gave them the courage to let go, to continue to preach the Good News, and not worry about the results. Their task was to be faithful, not to be successful.
While too many people in the 21st century continue to be persecuted for their religious convictions, Christians know that suffering for the reign of God is worth it when done for the right reasons. Jesus' promise to give life to those who die for the sake of the Good News remains the ground upon which we build our lives.
Today, accept whatever ridicule comes your way for professing the Gospel.
Have you ever suffered for your Gospel convictions?