July 15, 2022
“First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority...”
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“First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all goodness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, Who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4
Several years ago, during the Christmas season, I was surfing the TV channels when I caught a late-night cable news show interviewing the maker of the “Left Behind” video game. The game’s designers had given the “Christians” in the game the option to shoot “unbelievers” who don’t convert! The twisted side of me just had to laugh.
As you can imagine, the news commentators (along with many Christians) were appalled at this idea. Still, others rushed to defend the game’s maker. The “enemy” loves this kind of controversy. Ironically, this all took place during the season when Christians remember God’s gift of peace on earth & goodwill towards men.
Did this game prompt an outbreak of Christian violence? No. But such controversies add another layer of distance between Christians and unbelievers in our lives. **In fairness to the game’s maker, players cannot WIN the Left Behind game by killing people. You lose “spirit points” by exercising that option. Players score points by witnessing and praying. But, come on….
A facet of Christianity that the game makers “left behind” is the powerful testimony of the martyr. “Left Behind” leaves the player with only two options for survival: Convert, or kill. Sounds more like Islam to me. There were no points for the martyred servant, to whom God would say, “Well done!” as opposed to “Game Over.” Those options, “convert or kill,” are tragically haunting to the Jewish community because Christian-on-Jewish persecution is part of their history. But the idea of the martyrs, those believers whose faith in God and love for unbelievers lead to their personal death, is missing from both the video game and the over-arching conversation with the Jewish community.
Survival is a basic human instinct, but hope in the resurrection is, perhaps, the most powerful component of our faith. The great existential question of the evangelist: Even if it cost our lives, would we honor God to the very end, striving to convince our oppressors to follow Him, as well? What is God’s heart’s desire for the world? Paul tells us God wants everyone to be saved. How much so? Jesus laid down His life for the world. John 3:16-17 The Lord honored Jesus’ sacrifice by raising Him up again, and He promises the same for all believers. This truth emboldens us to lay down our lives, even unto death, if required.
Evangelism is about laying down our lives so that others might see our example and choose to believe in Jesus. It’s not a “believe or die” scenario. It’s more like “believe and live.” The essence of servanthood is saying “no” to our individual rights and “yes” to personal righteousness.