Scripture: But recall the former days… For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. Hebrews 10:32a, 34-35 ESV
Observation: The author closes this chapter by appealing to the church under fire to “not throw away [their] confidence, which has a great reward” (verse 35). And what is their great reward? When Christ returns, their souls will be present with him for all eternity (verses 37-39). Meanwhile, this fellowship of believers, which has “endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated” (verses 32b-33), is feeling the weight of persecution. Thus, the author reminds them of the former days when they did not flee or abandon one another. Instead, they acted like their Savior and showed compassion toward those unjustly treated, and they surrendered worldly possessions unfairly seized with a good attitude (above verses). But as the months turned to years with no sign of Christ’s return, they struggled to maintain their faith.
Takeaway: This sort of faith crisis is more common than not. Christians have repeatedly endured pain and suffering from within and outside the church during the past two millennia. Until Constantine established the state church, Romans and zealous Jews alike attacked Christians under false allegations. Yet, Christians persevered and cared for one another as well as others neglected by society. Then during the Dark Ages of the Holy Roman Empire, true believers stood up against the corrupt church leadership and championed the cause of the ignored masses. And today, missionaries and church leaders in underdeveloped nations risk their lives to care for the poor and oppressed.
So what drives us to not only persevere persecution but rise above it to help others? In part, it’s our hope for our reward when Christ returns, but also, like the earlier church, it is Christ’s grace here and now. Indeed, his grace instilled in us through the Holy Spirit deepens our affection for him and compels us to share his love with others. And it is his grace that instills confidence in us of how much we are loved by our Beloved; for fear paralyzes, but love mobilizes. The love of Christ in us moves us toward others who suffer when we are at risk of persecution. And when we do, we find relief from our fear and anxiety and refresh our love for our Beloved.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your grace in Christ that deepens our love for you and others. Would you please help us follow your Holy Spirit’s lead and overcome our fear of suffering that we might extend relief to the persecuted bolstered by your love? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling