I have come to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty for the captives and the recovery of sight for the blind, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. I have come that they may have life and have it to the full. (Luke 4:18-19, John 10:10)
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17)
In today's increasingly postmodern culture, Christian evangelists are characterized as bigots bent on brainwashing the entire world with "their version" of the truth. While Christians are asked to "understand" and "tolerate" other cultures, they are denied this same tolerance toward their own practices, one of which is to share the message of the gospel with the world.
Persecution of Christian servants is rampant throughout the world today, especially in closed countries like communist China, where the meaning and intent of the gospel are completely misconstrued. Repressive governments fear that political unrest and a disturbed social order will follow from the advance of the gospel.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Byproducts of the gospel (and the teaching of scripture) are respect for the government, the promotion of general welfare, and a sense of community and obedience. Why would any government oppose such an ideology? Because they have branded Christianity as the flagship for the western thought process they so vehemently oppose.
While in college, I have been confronted by many of these biases. I have caught myself (in the flesh) wondering whether my motives for worldwide evangelism are pure. Am I doing this so that I can feel good about myself through adherence to my faith? Do I simply want to promote western ideology? Is this just a vacation paid for by the faithful gifts of God's people? Thankfully, in response to these questions, the Holy Spirit floods my heart with a resounding "NO!"
As far as presenting a message that some don't understand, we're not alone. Isaiah was called to be a prophet to an "ever-hearing, never understanding" people. Jesus quoted that very same passage in regards to the Jewish population that would not recognize him as the promised messiah. He knew that many would misunderstand his message, but to him, the benefits of releasing captives from their spiritual prison would outweigh the sting of his opponents physical and rhetorical assaults.
This is the charge to which we are called: to proclaim freedom to a people that doesn't know it's in bondage and to fight for liberation even when those in prison are clinging to their ball and chain for comfort.
Paul preached in synagogues, reasoning with Jew and Gentile alike, proclaiming Christ's resurrection. No matter what they did to him, he loved them enough to proclaim abundant life to them.
Whether we go across the street or around the world, we have Jesus' word that persecution will follow the gospel. But we should never resent any suffering that befalls us. We should never see harsh treatment endured for the gospel negatively. We should never hold fallen individuals responsible for behaviors that stem from their bondage to the evil one.
Remember how you were set free when you wanted nothing to do with God or his holiness, and use this memory as a springboard for freedom fighting. We can empathize with the oppressed, for we were once of their fold. But now we have been brought into a new sheep pen, one where the shepherd cares for us. We must see all people, even those who attack us, as debtors who need the same grace that we have received.
The Spirit of the Lord indwells us, and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Wherever we go, the freedom of the kingdom of God is present. Once we follow Jesus' example and live in this reality, there will be no stopping the kingdom's--and freedom's--advance.