Is It More Challenging To Be Disciples Today?
Jesus himself recognized the difficulty of being a disciple when he called us, “If anyone would come after me, let him…take up his cross and follow me.”
The cross is the ultimate symbol of Christ’s suffering, and we, as Christians, follow him in that suffering (Christians mean little Christ). No matter what era or region we live in, being a disciple of Jesus is a call to a challenging life.
Is Following Jesus More Difficult Today?
No, not for you. If you’re reading this, following Jesus is not more difficult today. Claiming otherwise in most countries is a limited perspective at best and possibly disrespectful to the martyrs of history at worse.
Here are a few highlights that show how peaceful it is following Jesus today compared to other times in history:
- During Emperor Nero’s reign, Christians in Rome were arrested, thrown into wild animals, crucified, and burned. Some had their heads put on stakes post-death.
- During the Spanish Inquisition, Christians persecuted other Christians. Whipping, torture, burning, and other executions were common.
- During Muslim times, some have sought to “expel the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula so that I will not leave anyone but Muslims” (Musnad Ahmad 201).
Still, there are thousands of Christians going through similar levels of persecution today. Open Doors lists different countries that are most dangerous to live in for Christians. The Voice of the Martyrs regularly reports the very real challenges — which rival those of the worst periods in history — and the sacrifices that modern-day martyrs make.
If you’re reading this, however, you’re almost certainly not in a closed country such as those. You’re fortunate to have the resources to connect with God and your religion. Christians in other areas of the world are not as fortunate.
Different Types of Challenges
That’s not to say you’re free of challenge by any means. The challenges that our audience faces normally don’t result in death threats or executions, but we instead face an entirely different type of challenge when following Christ.
We struggle to rely on Jesus in all aspects of life constantly. Our distractions and abilities frequently make it difficult to see God. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God,” after all (Matthew 19:24). Almost all of us are rich compared to the most impoverished populations of the world.
Some of the ways that our setting makes it difficult to be disciples are:
- The noise of constant media makes listening to the peaceful quiet of Jesus difficult
- Our ability to rely on ourselves (e.g., financially) makes us less hungry for God
- Our ability to ascend socio-economically (e.g., in careers) become metaphorical towers of Babylon
- The social protections (e.g., healthcare, government safety nets) can cause us to hope in institutions rather than Jesus
It’s About Knowing Your Setting
Ultimately, whether our setting is the most difficult to follow Jesus in isn’t the question to ask. Instead, we should identify the challenges that we specifically face so that we can address them to follow faithfully.