Have you ever opened your email or logged on to your Facebook feed, only to be confronted with one of these messages:
Jesus said, “If you deny Me, I will deny you before My Father in Heaven.” If you love Jesus, forward this. 97% won’t do this.
My goodness! So my standing with God hinges on whether or not I play the Internet game of “pass it on?” That’s kinda cool, I guess. Manipulative, perhaps, until I realize the liberating idea that I can ignore the Lord’s claims on my personal behavior, forget about daily time in prayer and Scripture, and stop believing that I’m a representative of Him to all the people (Christian and non-Christian) who watch my life. What could be easier?
Lots of people could forward that quick paragraph without letting the Holy Spirit confront them with sin in their lives or call them to daily, life-long obedience. Actually, I’ve received this same message, years ago, from someone who left the father of her children (whom she’d never married), and was living with a boyfriend (whom she didn’t intend to marry), and who adamantly insisted that there was no standard of right and wrong (except for the wrong that had been done to her, of course). But hey, she forwarded the email, so she wasn’t denying Christ…right?
Except Jesus wasn’t addressing His words to people who sat at their computers, poising their mouse pointers over a forward button or a Facebook “share” button. He was speaking to people whom He expected to live according to His standards, even when doing so meant ridicule, persecution or death. He was speaking to men who became martyrs who chose to die rather than publicly deny their faith in Jesus. In the First Century, declaring that Jesus was Lord constituted treason against Caesar, and very often resulted in cruel and barbaric executions.
In 21st Century America (so far) the stakes aren’t that high, but we can still deny Him in serious ways. Do we laugh at off-color jokes, or do we stand against them? Do we go to chat rooms and fail to mention that we’re married? Do we have “under the table” jobs to avoid paying taxes? And do we talk openly about the Lord when others are mocking Him and denigrating His standards?
As I’ve said repeatedly in this blog, real persecution isn’t that distant anymore. Our small compromises today, if we don’t repent of them, could indicate that we’ll make big compromises tomorrow. When LGBTQ laws demand that you teach your children to affirm same sex marriage as a moral right, will you faithfully show them that Scripture condemns homosexuality? When ISIS tells you that they’ll behead you unless you convert to Islam, will you declare allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ? Will you face suffering or death rather than deny Christ?
Don’t misunderstand. I’m all for using email and social media to proclaim my faith in the Lord. Perhaps I do it less than I should, afraid of social pressure. But when I do get around to making a stand online, I want to be more authentic than cutting-and-pasting a recycled email paragraph into my status update. Rather, I want to challenge others towards repentance and faith in Him. I want to show His transforming impact on how I live my life, so that He is glorified. And that takes more than transmitting pithy little sayings across the World Wide Web. It involves giving Him control of my life so that my conduct (online and offline) reflects Him.
Passing on an email is easy and painless. Standing for Jesus, however, is costly.