One of the ways that our church works to proclaim the gospel is through distributing gospel tracts and literature. One of our newest pamphlets includes a photo of an aborted baby. This tract is used to expose the evil of abortion and other sins that have become rampant in Clark county. We have received a lot of different responses to this tract. Yesterday we received this message:
Thank you so much for the pamphlet of the aborted fetus that my young child found!
Notice how the person used the word "aborted fetus." That is a clue to what they really think about abortion. I decided to write them a response. This is it:
Greetings in name of Christ,
Ephesians 3:13-19 NASB Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory. For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.
Paul suffered significantly to take this good message abroad. He was despised as a traitor by the Jews and mocked as foolish by the gentiles. The Jews ran Paul out of their synagogues, had him beaten, and tried to stone him to death. Paul proclaimed that Christ is Lord over all nations, Christ is King of Kings. Yet those nations and those kings imprisoned Paul.
The temptation for the churches that Paul had planted was to be ashamed of Paul. They were tempted to want nothing to do with him because they feared persecution.
“Paul, you are doing things the wrong way and you are causing problems for all of us other Christians. If you would just calm down a bit, perhaps they wouldn’t hate you so much and they wouldn’t hate us. Paul, if you were more like Jesus they wouldn’t persecute you.”
Paul knows they will be tempted to be ashamed. In Verse 13 he says, “Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.” Don’t be ashamed of the persecutions I am facing. They are for you. They are so that I can take the gospel to the nations.
Just as bad, they would also be tempted to lose faith when they saw Paul being persecuted. If the one who had planted their church was being persecuted, what could they possibly hope for. How could they possible stand when the time came for them. Paul says don’t lose heart. Don’t lose faith, these tribulations I am facing are for you.
Paul who was mocked, despised, persecuted for Christ, and who the church would be tempted to be ashamed of or lose faith over then says in verse 14: "For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. " He bows his knees before the Father. Even though Paul from a worldly perspective had reason to complain, grumble, or rebel, he didn’t. Rather than thinking of himself, in humble submission he bows his knees and prays for the church in Ephesus. Rather than becoming bitter at those who would be tempted to be ashamed of him, he is concerned for them. Rather than focusing on the the tribulations he was facing, his worry was that they would be strengthened. And so he bows the knee.
Those of us engaged in certain ministries that are confrontational, i.e. abortion ministry, often face deep persecution and hatred by the world. As we are persecuted, other Christians often are tempted to despise us, be ashamed of us, or lose faith.
We often feel like the dwarves at the beginning of the Hobbit movie who watched the elves abandon them in the battle.
We cry out to the Lord, "where are all your people?" When grow tired and frustrated at other Christians who aren't involved in the same ways we are or who on the surface don't seem involved in any battle at all.
We can respond in one of two ways. One, we can start despising them, be ashamed of them, and lose faith in them. We can become those who constantly belittle the church. In our minds, all pastors are out to build their own kingdoms. We can complain about the ministry industrial complex. We don't need them anyways, they are just a bunch of ecclesiasticrats.
Or we can bow the knee to our heavenly Father and pray that our brothers and sisters are strengthened by the Holy Spirit so that Christ may dwell in their hearts by faith, and that they may know the fullness of the love of God. We can have true concern for other believers who may be called to other battles. We can gently encourage, exhort, and call for our brothers to join in the battles God calls them to. If we love the Father we will love all the Fatherhood that gets its name from him.