In the English Standard Version two Greek words are translated, endure. Matthew 13, where the Greek word used means temporary, contains among other parables the story of the sower. Jesus tells the parable and then to the disciples gives an interpretation of it. The seed sown on rocky ground receives the Word with joy but does not endure when persecution and tribulation come because of it. These people “fall away,” that is, they will not hold to the faith in adverse circumstance. In Matthew Jesus warns the disciples that persecution will come and that they will witness before hostile religious and governmental officials.
In both Matthew 10: 22 and 24: 13 Jesus says that those who endure (the Greek participle is used in both cases) will be saved. The first text is found in the mission discourse where Jesus forecasts persecution. After He tells the disciples that families will be divided with family members turning over other members to death because of their faith for which they will be hated, Jesus says, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10: 22b ESV) At the end of time when Jesus returns, He will bring faithful disciples into His kingdom. In Matthew 24: 13, the eschatological (pertaining to the last things) discourse, Jesus says the very same thing.
What is endurance in Matthew and the New Testament? The word is used to signify the disciples’ ability to continue on in faithfulness until the end of their lives or until the end of the age when Jesus returns. To endure is to hold up under persecution by continuing to witness and provide a defense for the Gospel.
But, what does this have to do with modern American society? We live in a free land where the first part of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right to exercise freely our religion. It protects not only freedom of worship, that some would claim as its meaning, but freedom of religion in all aspects of life. Statutes and court decisions clarify the meaning of free exercise.
Threats of limiting freedom of religion have come from the political community. These are signs of the possibility of persecution in the future, even in America. The secular element in our society has become more aggressive. It is a good habit for Christians to keep abreast of the news of developments pertaining to the expression of our religion in society. It helps to apprise us of what we are up against and what action to take. The Church and its teaching are a threat to secularists who have extreme political goals. We must not take our freedom for granted.
A Christian is one who has the ability to endure no matter what the circumstances. It takes a lot of prayer and discipline (a word that comes from the same root as disciple). Most especially, we must remember that the Lord will sustain us in any adversity.
Michael G. Tavella
October 15, 2019
Teresa of Avila, 1582, Teacher and Renewer of the Church