Follow In His Footsteps
In the old Museum of Atheism and Religion in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) during the cold war era, visitors upon entry were first subjected to a major display of pro-evolution propaganda. Second was the world religions section dominated by displays of the sordid history of Christianity such as the Inquisition and the Crusades.
Towering over that display area was a huge crucifix. The museum guides would explain it this way: “Christians love to suffer. Ever since their leader, Jesus Christ, was crucified on a cross like this, they have had a persecution complex!”
While we are definitely not called upon to have a persecution complex, we as Christians are repeatedly reminded in Scripture that our lot is indeed to follow in the footsteps of our Lord and Master.
When Jesus gave His last major teaching session to his disciples, he included a serious prediction about the reactions of the world. In what we now call the Upper Room Discourse (John 15-17), Jesus told his closest followers—probably as they were walking along (see John 14:31b)—that they were to remain [abide] in Him as a branch in the vineyard is connected to the main stalk.
He then reiterated his command that they were to love each other as He had loved them and was willing to lay down His life for them—the highest form of love. Little did they understand that prediction. Yet it would be fulfilled the very next day.
Then he contrasts that love of the brethren with the reaction of hatred from the world: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first…for they do not know the one who sent me” (John 15: 18-21). A little further down in the discourse, He says, “…in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God” (John 16:2b).
Jesus was indicating that as He suffered, so would His disciples. Every human being endures some suffering in his lifetime. It may be the physical suffering of sickness or injury. It may be the inner suffering caused by the death of a loved one, rejection by friends, or simply loneliness. Whatever the cause may be, we all seek to avoid it as much as possible. The Scriptures make it very plain that Christians are subject to all the causes of suffering common to men, plus the added persecution that comes with taking a clear stand for Christ.