Several years ago I was reading an update from a popular Christian ministry. They were complaining that a certain judge had called evangelical Christians a bunch of whiners and complainers. I suppose that the appropriate Christian response would have been for me to be outraged by that judge, but as I considered the statement, I realized that his was a fairly accurate generalization.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not supporting anti-God policies and I am all too aware that the whine potential in our country increases on a daily basis. There is much to be upset about! At the same time, the world is simply being the world, with people saying and doing what Jesus predicted they would do.
Early Christians had a very different perspective of persecution and other difficulties related to being a Christian. They recognized persecution-based suffering and difficulty as an opportunity to identify with Christ.
The Apostle Paul put it so well: “My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:10-11 (NET)
Acts 5 records the story of how Peter and some of the other apostles were arrested and beaten for healing people and preaching about Jesus—two of the most horrible crimes against God and humanity. Did they get their whine on in response to this injustice? Not at all. “So they left the council rejoicing because they had been considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.” Acts 5:41 (NET)
Of course we want to share in the fullness of God’s joy, but do we aim to know Him to the point that we consider it an honor to share in His sufferings? It seems to me that we either aim to know Him and all that entails, or we complain about a world that is becoming increasingly unjust and unlike what we want.
To be identified with Christ—there is no greater honor no matter what form that identification takes. And in the midst of any circumstance, we can always identify with Him. No matter what we go through I don’t think that there is any pain we can face that He hasn’t somehow already experienced in His life or in His death on the cross.
At some point we really must ask ourselves if we truly desire to know Him or if we just want the benefits that come with having a god in our lives. If we aim to know Him and to be identified with Him in every way, our tendencies to complain will suddenly begin to disappear.
“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without blemish though you live in a crooked and perverse society, in which you shine as lights in the world by holding on to the word of life so that on the day of Christ I will have a reason to boast that I did not run in vain nor labor in vain.” Philippians 2:14-16 (NET)