Would you read the Bible differently if you were being persecuted for your faith?
If so, how? What questions and concerns would you bring to the text?

These were the questions that opened the final lecture of our Biblical Basis of Mission course, which was on the theme of, ‘Mission, the Epistles and Revelation’. I had asked the students to prepare for the lecture by reading up on the persecuted Church. Much of the Bible was written and put together within the context of pressure and even persecution, so there must be ways in which we fall short in our reading of Scripture if we do not take account of this.

We spent a fair amount of time in the early part of the session reading a selection of texts (Romans 1:8-17; 1 Cor. 1:18-31; 2 Cor. 4:1-12; Phil. 1:3-5, 12-18; 1Thess. 1:2-10) and asking, What do these passages tell us about mission, then and now? How do these passages seek to shape God’s people for his mission in the world?

We then moved on the the book of Revelation, looking particularly at the significance of ‘…from every tribe and language and people and nation…’. I’ve posted on J. Brownson’s work on cultural diversity and the nature of God before. Here’s a quote I shared with the class in the context of Rev. 7:9-12:

All of humanity is called to glorify God, not by suppressing diversity and particularity, but by sanctifying it. The universal bond of humanity appears not so much in its set of common responses to its creator and sustainer, but rather by humanity’s diverse responses to the singular vision of God disclosed in the story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (p.485; from J. Brownson, ‘Speaking the Truth in Love’, International Review of Mission, Vol 83, No. 330 (1994), pp.479-504)

Finally, we looked at Rev. 21:1-22:5 and discussed…

In what ways does this passage conclude the grand story of God’s mission?
How might it encourage those facing persecution for their faith, then and now?
How does it encourage you in your walk with God and role in his mission?

So, the course has finished (except for the students’ assignments that will be hitting my desk shortly!) but I’ll do at least one more post in the near future on my thoughts about the course as a whole.

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