Therefore do not be ashamed about the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God. (2 Timothy 1:8 ESV)
Paul wrote a lot of letters. In fact, he was such a writer that I often wonder if he would have had his own blog had the internet been available in the Roman era. Here he is writing to a young Jewish-Greek man named Timothy, hence the name of the book. Both men are pastors, but as a more experienced teacher Paul has been mentoring Timothy for some time.
At this time Emperor Nero was in power, and he had little love for Christianity. I could tell you horror stories about Nero (warning: link contains firsthand accounts of martyrs’ deaths). Maybe you’ve heard the widely-accepted rumor that Nero set fire to Rome in AD 64, and perhaps you even know how he killed Christians by crucifixion and worse. In fact, things would stay this way until Constantine’s miraculous conversion over two hundred years later.
Long story short, being a Christian in these days was not the latest cool trend. Neither was it just a look-at-that-weirdo sort of thing. No, being a Christ-follower in the first few centuries AD meant persecution, torture, and even death.
Back to Paul and Timothy. Paul is in a Roman prison, and many people today believe that he would later be executed for his faith. Yet what is he saying to his young student? “Do not be ashamed.” He urges Timothy to have no shame about the testimony of Jesus Christ, but rather to “share in suffering” and keep preaching the Good News.
Now I’ve never had to deal with Nero’s wild beasts or face death at a stake, but over the centuries, Christians have experienced greater or lesser degrees of persecution in many forms. In America it seems to just be starting. Trials that publicly humiliate Christianity… no praying in schools… movements to remove the phrase “under God” from the Pledge. We as Christians can only guess at what comes next.
That doesn’t matter. To the Christian, the worst thing that human persecution can possibly do is kill us and send us to be with our Lord forever; the best thing is that people will see our faith and realize that the Gospel is true. Like Paul, Timothy, and all the other early-Church saints, we have to keep following Jesus without shame or fear. No matter what.