March 11, 2018

By Rev. Cuong Nguyen, Wesley UMC in San Diego, South District

I Corinthians 15:1 – 2

Now I should remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain

“If you hold firmly to the message?” The “if” here is troubling. Why? Jesus once declared, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matt. 10: 34). Those are disturbing words, especially when they came from Jesus, the Prince of Peace. But when Jesus said those words, he did not mean to abdicate his position as the Prince of Peace, but because he knew from the first what result would be when he preached the gospel, the message of God’s truth, peace and love, to people. He knew the gospel would be a disturbing force in the world. He knew it would upset people in power, shake up nations, even bring division to families, and challenge individuals.

So what Jesus said reveals one disturbing truth: When it comes to “holding firmly to the message [of the gospel],” it is easier said than done, especially when you are facing opposition. Why should the communists in various lands proclaim atheism and try to stifle the message of love and forgiveness? Why do dictators in other places feel they have to get the church under their thumb? Because the gospel is a disturbing force in the world. Even our own government officials sometimes get irritated when the church speaks out on civil rights or on some issues of justice, peace, and war.

And when you have a chance to go outside of this country, you may hear stories like these:

A pastor of an “underground church” in a communist country was “invited” to the district’s police headquarter several times because he kept building church after church.

In an Asian culture where the tradition of worshipping ancestors is prevalent, a man and his immediate family were disowned by the whole clan of his extended family after he told relatives that he decided to become Jesus’ disciple.

Are we able to hold firmly to the message of the gospel even if we are to be under the pressure of the world or to pay a price for our faith?

The great Mahatma Gandhi of India once said, “You Christians have in your hands the Bible that has the unimaginable force of great dynamite that can turn the world upside down, but unfortunately many of you treat it just like an ancient book, and nothing more.” These words from a “friend of Jesus’ gospel” may be very challenging as we ask ourselves “how serious I am when it comes to ‘holding firmly to the message of the gospel.”

Prayer: O God, you have gathered us in from many places. You have redeemed us as your people and given us the wonderful gospel through Jesus Christ, who established the church by his suffering, death, and resurrection. But we confess that we have felt vulnerable at times as we tried to be faithful to your message of love, truth, and justice. Almighty God, give us the power to hold firmly to your gospel. Amen.