One thing I really appreciate about the Scriptures is that whenever I read them, I get reality. Jesus is compassionate toward his disciples, but he is also transparently honest about reality, especially when it comes to sending them on mission. When some American Christians read Jesus’ descriptions about what happens on the mission field, they struggle to find a like comparison to our present day. Jesus says that the disciples will be handed over to councils and governors and kings. They will be flogged. They will be given to death by their own family and they will be hated by all (Matthew 10:16-25).
Can we really describe our American suburban reality this way? We seem to have a very peaceful existence. Very few American (or western) Christians I know have been handed to authorities or beaten and certainly not killed. In the book of Acts, we read that all of Jesus’ predictions for his disciples become reality in the history of the birth of the church. We certainly see a glorious work of God in the salvation of souls and the establishment and spread of the church. We also see a constant flow of opposition as apostles stand before councils, receive beatings and floggings, are killed and even sent to Rome, the highest authority in the world at that time. Within a very short time, church history shows that Christianity is outlawed and becomes a capital offence. It gets in the way of profit, ambitions, desires, and the desire for man to be his own god.
There are periods of time where Christians have influenced to the degree that governments have legislated in favor of a peaceable existence for the church. Eventually, though, as authentic Christians have become more unpopular, persecution has increased. Christians such as Huss, Luther, Wycliffe and Tyndale, and many others where even persecuted by governments who claimed to be “Christian.” This tells us two things. Christian doesn't always mean Christian. And, when the truth of Christ gets in the way of the desires and ambitions of man, persecution abounds. Sadly, the reality is that the truth of Christ will eventually always get more in the way of the desires and ambitions of man. This is a problem that has abounded ever since Genesis 3 and the first murderous persecution of a believer started with a brother killing his own brother in Genesis 4. True believers have never been in the world’s favor. This is a biblical standard.
Within Jesus’ descriptions of what will happen to the disciples on mission, he gives a couple of general realities. Jesus tells them to “beware of men,” (10:17) and that they will “be hated by all for my name’s sake.” (10:22). These statements are encompassing statements that describe the general situation of humanity and the ongoing nature of the mission field for all Christians. Beware of men. Why? Because mankind is sinful. Mankind cannot be trusted and will generally be against the God they have rejected. This is the norm.
When we see a general peace in society toward Christians, we should be thankful that God has given this time for us to more openly serve him and reach others. Generally, in the world, this is not the case. If we are seeing some signs of the tide turning in America, it is because humans are doing what Jesus has already told us what humans will do. Beware of men. The problem is a human problem. We are all men. We need Christ. The problem is a human problem. The problem is a sin problem. The problem is our problem.
The descriptions that Jesus is giving his disciples for mission are the descriptions that he is giving for his whole church. America has some restrictions against Christian persecution that remain from a time when there was sympathy to a population that leaned more toward Christian teaching and morality. As time progresses, we should expect a culture to move more toward the norm. The norm is that we are to beware of men as Christ is hated by all.
Is there a solution? Yes. The solution is that people desperately need to be saved into a new kingdom. One that is not of this world. One where the King is the Christ who Christians follow. One where sins are forgiven, hearts regenerated, and men and women are sanctified in Christ. The Bible never promises the abnormal times of peace in the world, but it does promise an eternity of peace in the free gift of salvation that comes from Jesus alone. While there is not one single bible verse that gives the New Testament church a mandate to change or reform a culture, Christians are to take hope in the fact that our kingdom and the kingdom we offer is not of this world. We have something greater to live for. We have something greater to offer.