I can’t think of a single time I’ve had to face any kind of suffering for my faith. I can’t think of any close friendships I’ve lost because I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. I have not been ostracized by my family because of my baptism – in fact, my dad was the one who baptized me.
I have a secure job in a (semi)comfortable office (the A/C is out, but that’s my only complaint). I get paid for teaching about Jesus. Never once have I had to fear for the safety of my wife and son because of the fact that I am a minister of the gospel.
You would think that in a nation where Christians are free to worship and practice their faith at will that they would be exuberant, on fire, passionate, and active. But really what we are seeing is a post-Christian society in most of Europe and a (pre)post-Christian society forming in the US. It would seem that where the gospel can be spread risk-free is the very place where it begins to flounder.
At my college Alma Mater we had social clubs for men and women. They were sort of a “baptized” version of fraternities and sororities. And each fall the clubs add new members. Hundreds of students spend much of their time through September and October working hard to get into these clubs. Over the years, however, the administration has set some very strict guidelines on what can and cannot be done to prospective members of these clubs. Almost any club-sanctioned activity that could possibly submit new members to physical “abuse” or public embarrassment has been banned. New members can’t even be called “pledges” anymore. They are walking on eggshells to avoid even a hint of so-called “hazing.”
My college is not alone in this respect. Universities across the nation have really cracked down on these type of activities. And the outcome has been positive…and negative.
You see, there was not much that we as a pledge class had to endure together. There was very little hardship. The blood, sweat, and tears had been wiped away. The whole process sterilized and individualized. There was never really that moment of “am I going to make it?” And because we were “saved” from these trials, many club brothers, including myself, failed to make a tight, long-lasting commitment to the group. Many went inactive over the following semesters.
There was no risk, so there was not much reward.
I think that is what happens many times in our churches. We don’t actually risk anything when we take the plunge of baptism. Sure, we may be stepping out on the tight wire above the gorge, but we’ve got a harness and a safety net beneath.
That’s what brings me to this old hymn from the 1800s, “Father, Hear the Prayer We Offer.” So often in our prayers I hear people pray for safety and comfort. I think we’ve got that down. We are all ABOUT safety and comfort, and many times we don’t need God for that. But look at the lyrics to this hymn and how different this prayer is:
Father, hear the prayer we offer:
Nor for ease that prayer shall be,
But for strength, that we may ever
Live our lives courageously.
Not forever by still waters
Would we idly, quiet stay;
But would smite the living fountains
From the rocks along our way.
Be our strength in hours of weakness,
In our wanderings be our Guide;
Through endeavor, failure, danger,
Father, be Thou at our side.
Let our path be bright or dreary,
Storm or sunshine be our share;
May our souls in hope unweary
Make Thy work our ceaseless prayer.