(Image courtesy of https://www.ralphkarseboom.com.)
"Preach the Gospel at all times and use words when necessary."
This quote has been used by many over the years to justify their fear in proclaiming the Gospel of God in speech.  "Oh I don't think we need to go around beating people over the head with Jesus," I have heard many say over the years.  "Just give 'em a smile."  But where in the world do we see such nonsense in the Word of God?  Jesus promised persecution and danger for any who would follow Him in proclaiming His message of repentance, not smiles and pats on the back.

(NOTE: Furthermore, this quote is often attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi.  However, there is no record of him or his followers having said such a thing.  Saint Francis and his followers took the Gospel of Christ to the world outside the Church in words, accompanied with deeds.)

In America, we have a difficult time relating to the persecution spoken of in the Bible, so we often go to extremes.  On the one hand, we may take great figurative leaps to prove our persecuted state: "Someone gave me a real dirty look as I was driving to church today, but I'm bearing my cross."

On the other hand, we may heap unnecessary condemnation on ourselves: "I am such a wretch.  If I was a true follower of Christ, I would be martyred by now."

Such extremes are neither healthy nor helpful.  So, what are we to do with passages like Matthew 10:22?
"You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved."
For one, "tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, [and] sword" (Romans 8:35) do, indeed, afflict our brothers and sisters around the world.  In several countries, the possibility of losing one's home, job, or place of worship is high; in other parts of the world, even one's life hangs in jeopardy.  But in America and many other countries those things don't happen - at least, not to the same degree.

The question we must ask, then, is this: why don't more Christians in the United States face persecution?  If Jesus promises this for all believers, why don't those who follow Him in the United States have their property destroyed or their lives threatened?  Are we not righteous enough?

The idea that somehow one believer is more righteous than another is foolishness.  Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11:21-23:
But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that.  Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I.  Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.
Paul goes on to tell of the many persecutions and difficulties he faced in his life up to that point for the sake of Christ.  Yet he purposely made a satirical argument; namely, that somehow he is more spiritual than those who have not faced the same things he had.  In other words, Paul is essentially saying, "If you have the Spirit of God in you, what more do you need?  You are declared righteous because God has given you the righteousness of His Son.  There is no more righteousness required and none that you can provide - no matter how many beatings you bear in His Name."

Still, the question lingers: why was Paul persecuted, but not me?  If we are equally righteous by Christ's merit, then why am I not suffering as my brothers and sisters?

If there be any application from this article for Christians in America, let us consider this:

There is no need to wrecklessly pursue persecution.  This serves no one but yourself.  But there is a great need of every Christian to take risks.

Turn on the TV and tell me how many stations you see devoted to designing and updating homes.  Drive through your nearest city and tell me how many home improvement stores there are.  In America, we don't take risks for the Gospel.  We board ourselves up in our homes.  We smile at our neighbors as we hurriedly carry our bags of groceries into the house, hoping the Gospel is going forth by our smile and our pretty manicured lawns.  We hustle past people throughout the day, being very careful not to make eye contact with anyone, for fear others may want to talk or we may see someone who needs help, and be late to our next appointment.

Brothers and sisters, I am in need of God's forgiveness, for I have been a distracted disciple - a poor follower of Christ.  For almost one whole year I have been busily working on our house - making repairs, trimming hedges, removing debris - but I have not taken very many risks.  I am building my castle, my escape, so when I come home after work I can have a safe place to enjoy with my family.  I complain about my loud neighbors.  They make me uncomfortable.

Is this the purpose of our homes?  Or has God not given them to us - as His stewards - to faithfully use them as instruments of His Gospel?  Make repairs, sure, but also open them up to outsiders.  Maybe if you invite those people into your home they'll use words that make you squirm.  Maybe they'll get your chairs a little dirty.  But what's the purpose of your home, the home that God gave you?  John 1:3 says, "All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made."  All things were made by God and for God.

Oh Christian, will you and I continue to live without taking risks?  Will we use God's sovereignty as a crutch to not speak the Gospel to our neighbors or our families?  Will we tell our Savior we are too busy to do His work?

Perhaps when we risk our comfort, our safety, or our reputation we will then see lives changed by the Gospel.  Or perhaps we will find persecution in various forms.  Either way, let us be steadfast in the faith to which we have been called, knowing that "in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:37-39).  Even if all things in life are taken from you, steward - your house, your job, your kids, your spouse, your comfort, your life - you have gained Christ!  Fellow Christian, this is not our home!  Therefore, preach the Gospel with boldness and take a risk!

"We are not called to be wreckless, but we are called to take risks" (Pastor J. Aaron White).