What's the worst thing that ever happened to you because of your Christian faith? The answer probably depends on where you live, how your serve in Christ's Kingdom, and your social circle. If you lived in a Muslim dominated Middle East country, you could be jailed, beaten, or even executed for boldly proclaiming your faith as a Christian pastor, missionary or teacher. In America we thank God for the precious gift of religious freedom. We don't fear arrest or worse for proclaiming our faith, or for serving in Christian ministry.
Our American freedom of religion has limits defined by the rights of others. We are free to believe and practice our Christian faith as long as we don't interfere with the rights of others to believe and practice what they believe or disbelieve. In an increasing number of work places it is not acceptable for Christians to teach and profess their faith in Jesus Christ openly and publicly. Fortunately, there is no constraint against Christians sharing their faith by their life witness, which the Holy Spirit can use to open doors, as 1 Peter 3:15 (ESV) suggests: In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.
Have you ever been ridiculed because of your faith? That's much more common than outright persecution. There seems to be open season in the entertainment media, popular music and secular society on ridiculing Christians for their faith and demeaning Christian pastors and teachers. That's nothing new. Think about St. Peter's encouragement in 1 Peter 4:12-16; 19 (ESV) 12Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. …19Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
What does all this mean? It means that Lutheran Christian pastors and educators serving in a sinful world can expect to suffer for our faith. Only God knows what form that suffering will take or how severe it will be. Suffering for our faith is part of our Christian calling. How we respond either gives glory to God and helps extend His Kingdom, or gives us cause once again for us to fall on our knees to confess our sin, embrace Christ's forgiveness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit to grow in faith to confront suffering more courageously next time, giving glory to God.