Last Friday I had the privilege to attend an event hosted by Redemption Hill Baptist Church (RH) called God’s Leading Edge: The Front Lines of the Great Commission. RH invited veteran missionary and author Nik Ripken to share about his experience serving God in hard places throughout the world. He is most recently noted for writing Insanity of God and Insanity of Obedience (http://www.nikripken.com/). Nik shared about the challenges that many believers around the world face when coming to faith in Jesus. In fact, as Nik reminded us, the reality of persecution is normal for followers of Jesus.
He shared three biblical pictures that I want to pass on to you. First, Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Lk 19:10). What a glorious truth that Jesus seeks out the lost. We did not go looking for Jesus; He came looking for us, and by His grace found us. People don’t just make new resolutions to live better or to even become a Christian. That’s not how it works. Jesus comes for us; He pursues us! He seeks us out in the midst of our despair and sinful pleasures. He saves us from our bondage to sin and self-idolatry. Yet, in seeking and saving us, the lost, He sends us back out into the world with the same message that transformed our lives.
So, as Nik shared, the second biblical picture is that Jesus came to send us as sheep among wolves (Matt 10:16). The imagery is graphic. Wolves eat sheep! Persecution isn’t something you run toward or away from; it just is, as Nik spoke. While physical persecution isn’t as readily noticed in the US, 70% of believers worldwide suffer for their faith. The number one cause of persecution around the world is people coming to faith in Jesus. Wolves don’t like sheep turning in faith to the Shepherd, nor do they like sheep sharing with others who the Shepherd is and how to embrace Him. We certainly need to pray for our fellow sheep who are suffering this very moment for the cause of the Great Shepherd (http://www.opendoorsusa.org/). We also must heed Nik’s call to not waste our lives if we are among the 30% not facing persecution for our faith. Let us leverage our lives and our freedoms for the propagation of the gospel to the ends of the earth . . . yes, even to the hard places where wolves eat sheep.
The third biblical image that Nik shared is the call to love our enemies (Matt 5:44). It’s easy to love those who love us, but it’s altogether different to love those who hate us, who want to eat us. In fact, if we do not love our enemies we are no different than the wolves. Wolves love their own, but kill and eat their enemies. This love for our enemies is most visibly expressed in our lion-hearted proclamation of the glorious gospel of our loving Lord. You see, as sheep we are really called to be lion-like in our gospel advancement, even among, especially among, the very wolves who would seek to devour us. May God give us love for our enemies and may He give them transformed hearts that supernaturally change them from ravenous wolves to loving sheep.