“Wrestling With Romans”
Sheep for the Slaughter (Chapter 8 Verses 28-39)
The quotation used here is taken from the Book of Psalms (Psalm 44.22), read the whole Psalm to get the full impact (v36). The importance of the quotation is found in the opening phrase, ‘for your sake,’ where Israel are not being chastened for their own sins, but suffering, because they belong to God, because they are his children. We in just the same way are afflicted because we belong to Christ, because we are God’s true children. And this we bear not as a result of being separated from Jesus, no way, the very opposite, it is a sign that he does love us, and that we truly do believe and will be saved (Philippians 1.27-29). But you say it’s never ending, it just goes on and on. Well that’s what Paul means when he quotes ‘all day long’, as far as the enemies of the gospel are concerned Christian’s are simply fodder for the slaughter market, to be sold and butchered. There have been periods in Church history where we have seen these extremities of suffering, where the Church has been relentlessly attacked and yes even slaughtered. And are not these very things happening in other countries than our own today? Yes they are. Does not the powers of Islam see Christians in just this way? A flock to be sold and butchered.
We may not suffer in these extremes but in covering the most extreme circumstances Paul covers all the lesser instances too. But this is the Christian life is it not. A call to the cross. It’s an element that is subtracted from most preaching today in our Churches, but the call in the New Testament is a clear one, Jesus has his cross, and he bids people to come and follow him, taking up their crosses (Matthew10.38; Luke 9.23). An identification with Jesus that brings suffering, that brings hostility (John 15.18-21). In fact Jesus himself says when everyone is saying nice things about you, beware, there is something wrong with your discipleship (Luke 6.26), you’re more in line with the false prophets, the antagonists of the prophets of truth. Being a Christian isn’t about being popular, agreeing with everyone, and upsetting none. No, it’s about speaking out the truth against evil, in love yes, but it was for that the world hated Jesus (John 7.7), and later crucified him. But far from being a signal that we have been separated from the love of Jesus, it is more likely a sign that we are closer to him, when we suffer ‘for his sake’, and death simply brings us even nearer still (Philippians 1.21).
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)