If Jesus becoming greater in my life results in persecution, am I willing to follow him? John the Baptist was thrown in jail and eventually beheaded as a prophet, counting the ultimate cost of following God…
“Although [Herod] wanted to put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they regarded him as a prophet.”
“Herod was afraid of John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. And when he heard him, he was very perplexed; but he used to enjoy listening to him.”
“He must become greater; I must become less.”
Sometimes, when Jesus is ‘greater’, the ‘less’ is prison or death. Each one of the apostles was imprisoned and/or killed for their faith in action. John the Baptist suffered both. He was imprisoned because he told King Herod that is was not right for him to marry his brother’s wife. Herod jailed the prophet and then at a banquet the offended wife tricked Herod into beheading John.
It wasn’t that Herod didn’t want to do it – it was that Herod didn’t want to look bad in the eyes of the people for killing a prophet of God. Isn’t that the way? Most of us place the idol of popularity ahead of God at one time or another. This was Herod’s time.
And when faith in action meets the idol of popularity on the road of life, persecution will result and blood may spill. It’s unavoidable.
Faith in action is part of the problem. Although faith isn’t the problem. Faith is personal and individual and private, and will likely never get any one of us in trouble in life. Yet that faith is not what God has for us. In fact, God calls that faith dead because it is not active in the world (faith without works is dead – James 2:17).
Faith is action is being the salt and light of the world. And it comes at a cost. People love a prophet for the truth they tell until the truth is personal. Then the prophet has crossed a line. John was willing to cross that line in his obedience to his calling, and suffer the consequences. He called ’em as he saw ’em.
When Jesus is greater, concern for ourselves gives way to commitment to the mission.
If Jesus becoming greater threatens your life or livelihood, are you still willing to become less? In democratic and free society, this likely won’t mean death, yet increasingly following Christ today is falling out of favour. Many times today, judgmental and radical Christians who make self-righteousness their idol are stirring societal wrath against the rest of us. Unfortunately, they are not acting in ways which draw people to Jesus, but rather they push people away.
Representing the true love of Jesus in our world, drawing people to his grace, is more risky in these times, yet he must become greater…