By Stan Mitchell
“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” (Philippians 1:29).
He stood outside the door of my house, a gangly, slender kid of seventeen. The major man in his life, the man he had looked up to, who had taught him to work hard, and be honest – his own father – had disowned him. I had baptized Antonio the night before. It was an easy decision on my part, but I now realized that it was a decision that had cost him dearly. My father was proud of me when I made the same decision, years before.
“No son of mine joins a church,” the older man had shouted, “I know those Christians. They’re all hypocrites!”
It is a common jibe, of course, rather like saying “I know Americans, and some of them are criminals!” Well, of course some of them are. There are criminals in every society, and hypocrites in every religion.
But I had never suffered for my Christianity, not really. And in the first days of his walk with God, Antonio was suffering deeply. He was hurt. Who wouldn’t be? And a little stunned, too. I stammered something to him, and was surprised at his reply:
“Don’t worry, Uncle Stan” [all young people in Zimbabwe call close adult friends either “uncle” or “auntie”], “you didn’t promise me a rose garden, you promised me that Jesus would forgive me.”
Of course as everybody knows, a rose has thorns, and the Christian life has its setbacks and disappointments. Antonio had just learned this truth early.