Suffering for Jesus - what?
By accepting Jesus, we let him lead our lives. He promises that he will never fail us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Troubles, opposition, and persecution will come but Jesus is always with us, “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He tells us in very clear words: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Thus, we should not be surprised to see that our identity with Jesus would draw the same response the world has for Jesus (John 15:18-25).
After deciding to follow Jesus, I faced persecution in the years that followed at the hands of my family, Muslim friends, and the community as a whole. I followed literally what Jesus had said, “When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another” (Matthew 10:23). Many times, I complained to God, asking ‘why’ and ‘how’. Soon however, I learned that for believers in Jesus, faith and suffering go together. I will never forget the day when, during my prayerful time with God, after addressing all my complaints to him, I glanced at my opened Bible. I read, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” (Philippians 1:29).
When the apostles and disciples of Jesus were persecuted, remembering what Jesus had already told them, they rejoiced at being counted worthy to suffer disgrace for the Truth about Jesus (Acts 5:41). They did not even consider the idea of diluting the position of Jesus and his uniqueness by striving for an ‘interfaith’ community. They did indeed co-exist with those who did not believe; they did not kill anyone or force anyone to believe. Rather, they endured persecution at the hands of those who did not wish to co-exist with them. They did not water down the idea of ‘co-exist’ to mean not to tell people about Jesus and his unique message. When they were asked not to preach and teach about Jesus, their polite answer was, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God” (Acts 4:19). They were not intimidated or bullied into not telling the truth about sin, salvation, and assurance available through Jesus. They did not join the ‘crowds’ in a superficial dialogue of “We all are one and the same”. They were put in jail and beaten up, and on their release they did not hold seminars on, “How can bad things happen to good people?” They actually became more zealous. Their prayers were not pity parties about their own situations. Rather, they asked God for boldness to do what Jesus instructed them to do:
Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus (Acts 4:30).
Both Christianity and Islam are mission-based faiths. One uses the word ‘evangelism’ the other ‘Da’wa’. Both begin with sharing the message and inviting people to accept that message. While Muslims, according to the Qur’an and traditions, are allowed to quell opposition to their message with the sword (Sura 2:191-193; 2:217; 4:74-77, 84; 8:41; 9:29, 36, 29, 41, 111, 123; 47:4, 20; 48:15-16; 61:4) believers in Christ are not to do this but rather are to love their enemies (Matthew 5:43-48; 26:52; Luke 6:27-38; John 18:11).