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Sunday Message Supplement for 14 August 2022: “Enduring Faith”

The scripture for today’s message is Hebrews 11:29 – 12:2

Following God can be perilous. Regarding the ancient followers of God, “They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented–…” (Hebrews 11:37).

Then as now, evil is prolific. In the New Testament period two-thousand years ago it was the Roman Empire that persecuted Christians, at least until the early fourth-century when Christianity became the official state religion. How ironic that Christianity experienced a transformation as it became entangled within a structure that had previously tried to destroy it.

There is much good in the world yet a plague of evil continually wounds humanity. Considering politics and religion, history reveals that there is always some ruler who is persecuting, torturing and killing righteous people.

The grisly tortures of early Christians in the Roman Coliseum may seem comfortably distant but persecution remains unrelenting. Evil regimes persist in many countries. Even at home, fascist authoritarianism threatens to destroy America. In one of history’s greatest ironies, so-called “Christians” occupy the contemporary equivalent of those ancient arena seats. These people of false faith propagate a hijacked religion by reviving historic hate. In the world’s supposed beacon of democracy, perpetrators squat in church pews praising Jesus while simultaneously denying people their human, civil, and equal rights.

Over centuries evil has evolved through subtle and cunning ways. Malignant souls find new methods of creatively oppressing the poor and vulnerable. The gist is that people are denied justice and compassion. Volatile political rhetoric often ignites destructive emotions as perpetrators weaponize their vote and their religion. It’s no wonder that today’s message from Hebrews serves as a reminder that taking a stand against darkness risks ridicule and death.

The terror imposed by ancient Rome pales in comparison to what happened in twentieth-century “Christian” nations of Italy and Germany, both of which embraced fascist governments, comprised of Catholic and Protestant majority populations. Starting in 1939 and extending for over five horrific years, World War II was unleashed by fascists who set the world aflame. Fascists were the architects of the Holocaust as they amassed millions of casualties during the world’s most devastating conflict.

Hence the cry to the faithful, to people of good conscience today who must now rise lest the seeds of destruction again threaten to germinate. We must not become complacent and allow history to repeat itself. Throughout many Western nations there is a rise of populist nationalism, otherwise known as fascism. Truth and justice-loving people everywhere are horrified as duped persons fill stadiums chanting political slogans, fed by a toxic brew of fear, ignorance and anger.

Policies fed by bad religion and despotic leaders dehumanize and scapegoat vulnerable populations. Harm is magnified when maniacal, sociopathic elected officials and their appointed lackies feed prejudice with rabid rhetoric. Alongside threats to the rule of law and with clear signs of a return to authoritarian government, people who defend decency and compassion must confront and defeat the rising darkness—before it is again too late.

God’s mighty hand guides and sustains the righteous during a recurrent, bitter struggle against evil. False political and religious messiahs with insatiable narcissistic egos unleash the tongues of millions of supporters, who spew venom that could devolve into genocidal atrocities. The founders of the United States understood some of these perils, which is why the Constitution pioneered secular rule while preserving the right to practice peaceful religion, unfettered by an incestuous, corrupting authoritarian government.

As tainted as is contemporary political culture, the emphasis remains on challenges from within toxic religion, which also feeds carnage and horror. History reveals that if you disagree with the prevailing theological view, you risk dismissal as a heretic and condemnation as an apostate. Nonetheless, God’s faithful remnant in both ancient and modern times have endured horrendous tortures. Despite God followers being burned alive, drawn and quartered, starved and beaten, the truth prevails. Old Testament prophets endured destruction when their message didn’t please the gullible masses. Even Jesus was condemned by a religious establishment which conspired with political leaders in his execution.

While it’s unhealthy to dwell on negativity, it is equally bad to deny reality. It is necessary to know what’s going on, including the cost of following God. Throughout the ages people who embrace truth are punished by those who impose death and destruction, mayhem and madness. Thankfully, God’s liberating Spirit can set anyone free, both perpetrator and victim (and we need to pray for both). Even in our righteous anger we must avoid turning ourselves into the very monsters seeking to destroy us.

Today’s topic is gritty and inconvenient but there’s no substitute for a reality review. It is irresponsible and negligent to avoid speaking truth. Clear-eyed progress demands that things be seen for what they are and not sugar-coated for the sake of a pandering politeness. After all, the tongues of the evil are unrestrained. So, how much more must proclamations of love and liberty overcome shouts of “Make America hate!”

A monumental insight in today’s message is that even God’s people suffer, often at the hands of an entrenched, false faith peddled by deceived persons wielding political power. Some who call themselves “Christian” and who wave the banner of patriotism  reveal hypocrisy and incite the demons of demagoguery. Despite the ordeals, the Almighty empowers you. Remain steadfast and joyous despite hate dressed in religious language. God’s Spirit illuminates you as a beacon of love and truth.

Perhaps you are enduring a bad physical health, dysfunctional relationships, financial hardship or a myriad of other obstacles. Whatever you face, take comfort in knowing that God can strengthen you; you are neither alone nor forgotten. Take respite in God’s care. God is here to bring you healing and restoration.

No matter who you are or what perils you face, God can redeem you. Don’t feel defeated or allow darkness to infect your soul. Rise and be joyful!. Remain confident that nothing can separate you from the love of God that endures forever.

–Reverend Larry Hoxey

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