Thursday, May 1, 2014

Living Dangerously

Photo image courtesy of Jamie Holden via 123rf.com
The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” 

The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
~ Acts 16:22-30, NIV ~

To what lengths would you go to rescue a fellow sufferer? 

Once again this Easter season, I had the opportunity to view The Bible Series as it played on The History Channel.  While there has been much fanfare over the portion of the series that portrays the life of Jesus (as well there should), I always think the under-lauded segment is the final episode that brings to life the early church.  Seeing what early believers endured to share the gospel message is profound.  To have had an encounter with the risen Jesus, so amazing that you would risk stoning, imprisonment, and death is far beyond comprehension to the vast majority of us.

I found it convicting.  As I have said many times before, the suffering we and our children endure provides us with a unique platform to share the hope of Jesus.  So, what holds us back?

Is it criticism?  Harsh words are something we are accustomed to.  Given how people criticize our children's behavior, our choices in treatment, how we respond to their diagnosis, and on, and on, and on, perhaps we can develop the ability to walk forward without care for life's critics.  We're used to living on the margins.  Why should we feel any more of an outsider because of our faith in Christ?

Is it discomfort?  We know pain.  Like few others in the world, we KNOW pain.  Sharing with others how Jesus has made a difference in our survival, outlook, and hope needs to become a natural part of our personal narrative.  No one can argue with your own, personal experience.

Besides, if we truly want to know discomfort, we ought to think back to Paul and Silas being beaten to within inches of their lives, skin broken and bleeding all over their bodies, being thrown into a cell of squalor, feet painfully restrained in stocks, rats and bugs crawling all around, left to suffer in their own filth.  In spite of all of this, they were PRAYING and SINGING to God as they stayed awake in their pain.  Sharing the good news in our culture and generation requires far less from us.  

As a mother raising kids with special needs, I want to teach them to live dangerously when it comes to sharing their faith.  I am praying that I have started them out on the right track.

Recently, as they got into the car after school, my son was deeply distressed by another Christian student he knew who was known to be expressing hatred towards a certain group of marginalized people.  My son pushed me asking, "Mom, doesn't our church teach that we should love everyone and welcome them in, even if we don't love what they do?"

"Yes, son," I replied.  "And how can we reach the least and the lost if we don't welcome them in.  Who do you think Jesus hung out with?  The best way you can reach others for Christ is just loving and living your faith out loud, buddy.  YOU are in a unique position to do that!"

Nearly a year ago, my eldest lost her entire friend group because she took a stand for her faith through a Dare2Share weekend.  These friends had been mocking her, despite her loving, firm stance for the gospel of Christ.  While the pain of loss was great, God has blessed her this year with better opportunities, friendships and life experiences than she ever would have had with that same group of friends.

If our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, China, India, Africa, and countless other places around the globe can continue to suffer for the Name of Christ, we owe it to them to to live dangerously in our freedom.  Daring to speak out for the hope and love that Jesus alone can provide is a privilege, even if it means standing against some behaviors the culture attempts to normalize.

That danger might be speaking candidly to a medical practitioner about how your faith has gotten you through all of the rough spots in your child's diagnosis.  It might be standing for life when other extol the virtues of aborting kids that culture considers less-than-perfect.  Danger might be encouraging another special needs parent to work through their marital difficulties if possible, because God knows how heartbreaking a single-parent home can be.  Whatever it is, plan on it looking different from the world around us.

Join me and my kids, with all of their myriad diagnoses, as we attempt to seize every opportunity to live dangerously for the One who lived dangerously for us.

PRAY:  Jesus, you spared yourself nothing in living for us.  Help us to follow Your example and the example of the saints who have gone before us.  Holy Spirit, fill us with the boldness to reflect Your glory to a hurting world.

~Barb Dittrich

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