Would you be willing to die for God?
We believe that this is the ultimate question of our faith. We've heard stories about those who have faced severe persecution for their faith, who have had guns held to their heads and who have been ordered to reject God and who wouldn't do it. We are always told, when we are told of great faith, what it takes to be able to do this. We should all, we say, be willing to die for God.
And we can say this relatively easily. Most of us are not actually going to be asked to die for God, and we know it. We live fairly comfortable lives in a culture that, while antagonistic to Christianity, is not militant against it (at least, not right now). Most of us live with a relative certainty that no one is going to hold a gun to our heads and tell us to reject God. So we say, sure. We'd be willing to die for God (since that's never going to happen).
But culture and the relative security of being a Christian in America aside, the truth is that God has very, very rarely asked His people to die for Him. In fact, when we read the Old Testament, we see a God who keeps telling His people how to live.
When Babylon comes storming into Jerusalem, Zedekiah begs for a way to come out from under them. He seeks the prophet Jeremiah and asks for advice on how to secure Jerusalem in the face of the approaching army. And Jeremiah tells him - you can't. This city is going to be destroyed, and everyone who clings to it is going to be killed. The only way that you can live is if you surrender to Babylon and go live in their land.
That seems pretty straightforward - if you want to live, surrender. If you don't surrender, you will die. But it's complicated by the fact that if you live, you live in Babylon and if you die, you die in Jerusalem.
There's something in us that wants to demonstrate our faith by saying that we'd rather die in the holy city, in the shadow of the altar, than to live in some faraway, profane place. And in fact, most of today's Christians would think that this is some kind of test from God - that He's wanting to see how willing we are to cling to Jerusalem, how rock solid our faith that we would rather die in His city than to live anywhere else.
Never mind that He's the one telling us to get out now, to surrender, to live.
Somehow, we've gotten the idea that obstinance, rather than obedience, is the greatest sign of our faith. That staunchness, not surrender, is what God really wants from us. So even when God tells us that He wants us to live, we decide that what that really means is that He wants to know whether we're willing to die.
But what if it doesn't?
Most of us spend our Christian lives asking if we are willing to die for God, if we would become martyrs if the opportunity presented itself. But what if the real question is exactly the opposite? What if the real question of our faith is...are we willing to live for God?
Even in a place like Babylon?