Worship at Your Own Risk - Part 4: Jesus
Worship can be risky. Just ask Jesus.
Jesus was teaching in the temple in John 8 and we see that the people picked up stones to stone Him. (John 8:59) Later, in John 10:31, we see once again Jesus teaching and the people pick up stones to stone Him. When He was teaching in His hometown you’d think things would be better, but in Luke 4:29 we see the people where He grew up were seizing Him to throw Him off a cliff. And of course, while they never did throw Him off a cliff or stone Him, when He was praying in the garden they did come to seize Him and ultimately crucify Him. (Matthew 26-27)
Jesus taught His Apostles, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent Me.” (John 15:19-21)
Jesus taught at the beginning of His ministry, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12) This was said in the Sermon on the Mount and one of the very first teachings we have of Jesus Christ. He was pretty upfront about the risks/dangers of Christianity!
Jesus taught the seventy that He sent out, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34) Anyone who has fought the kids to get ready Sunday morning knows the truth of that statement! And while that’s just a joke (of course), we know the real point is that Jesus’ teaching (the truth of the gospel) would be such that many would reject it, Him, and those who follow Him. The sword was not Christians on a crusade, it was those who reject the gospel bringing the “sword” against believers. We’ve never seen that to a greater degree in our lifetime than we have in 2020. What will the future behold?
All that being said, it’s pretty clear that Christianity is risky. Of course, worship is a central part of Christianity. We are called to assemble together and worship together and encourage one another (at a very absolute minimum - once a week as we gather to partake of the Lord’s Supper - but of course love would demand we assemble more AND worship more). (Hebrews 10:23-25) We are supposed to sing to one another. (Colossians 3:16). We are supposed to take the memorial supper together. (I Corinthians 11:17-34) We are supposed to greet one another. (I Peter 5:14) We can’t do Christianity alone. Not right anyway. Not true Christianity.
Nobody ever said that living Christianity didn’t come with inherent risk/danger. Well, no honest person who knows the Faith. There have been plenty of false teachers of the “health and wealth” gospel who have said such false abominations. But those who know the teachings of Jesus know better. Jesus taught us to “count the cost” of discipleship. (Luke 14:25-33) To consider before we commit. Jesus was honest with us about the dangers of Christianity, but He was also honest with us about the dangers of not being a Christian! (II Thessalonians 1:7-10)
What Jesus teaches us is to “choose” our risk. And to choose wisely. Do we want to risk the wrath of men or do we dare risk the wrath of God? (Matthew 10:28) When you look at your choices, your decisions, are they being driven by a fear of men, a fear of the flesh, a fear of some type of physical harm (either by persecution or disease), or are your decisions and choices reflective of a healthy reverent fear of God almighty? Better yet, do your choices reflect a true unflinching steadfast love for the Lord. Jesus warns about the dangers and persecutions and sufferings Christians might face, but also assures us that the “crown of life” awaits the faithful. (Rev. 2:10)