Litmus tests and other useless stuff I learned in high school science class

May 1, 2014

Matthew 5:11-12

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


I remember a day in science class in my junior year of high school. The teacher brought some small thin strips of blue and red paper. She told us it was litmus paper and we would be doing litmus tests today. She dipped a blue strip of paper in one solution and it turned red. Then she dipped a red strip into another solution and it turned blue. At least that’s how I remember it. To this day I have no idea what this meant and why she was teaching us this seemingly pointless trick nor what it had to do with science or anything else. As far as I was concerned, this fell into the same “useless information” category as did the periodic table and dissecting a piglet. Speaking of that dear little piglet, I’m still dealing with the PTSD over that forced atrocity. ;0)

So why am I telling you this? This morning that pointless litmus test came to mind as I read today’s text from THE SERMON. Persecution is the litmus test of true Christianity. Dip your average Christian into the “solution” of persecution and see if he or she turns a different color. If the persecuted one responds to the persecutor with the holy love of God, they prove themselves a mature Christian. Said another way, put your average Christian into the hot water of the hell of persecution and see if poverty of spirit, mourning, meekness, mercy, righteousness, goodness, purity of heart and peace comes out. Persecution is the litmus test of true Christianity.

So should we seek out persecution in order to know if we are a true or mature Christian? Absolutely not. But if and when it happens, you will at least have a better grasp of what’s going on. Our task is to go about our ordinary days practicing the means of grace in relationship with others in such ways as cultivate the holy dispositions, tempers and affections  Jesus  outlines for us in these first twelve verses of THE SERMON. (Matthew 5-7)

And if all else fails, just watch him. As I am fond of saying, we become what we behold. Wesley closes this part of his message on THE SERMON with a  fitting summary of these first twelve verses:

Behold Christianity in its native form, as delivered by its great Author! This is the genuine religion of Jesus Christ! Such he presents it to him whose eyes are opened. See a picture of God, so far as he is imitable by man . . . These are indeed the fundamentals of Christianity. O that we may not be hearers of it only!—“like a man beholding his own face in a glass, who goes his way, and straightway forgets what manner of man he was.” Nay, but let us steadily “look into this perfect law of liberty, and continue therein.” Let us not rest until every line thereof is transcribed into our own hearts. Let us watch, and pray, and believe, and love, and “strive for the mastery,” till every part of it shall appear in our soul, graven there by the finger of God; till we are “holy as he which has called us is holy, perfect as our Father which is in heaven is perfect!” p.65-66. 

Could these ten verses (Matthew 5:3-12) comprise the DNA of true Christianity; of the New Creation? Ok– that’s getting into another science experiment that’s way out of my depth. I should have paid more attention in class.

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J.D. Walt writes daily for Seedbed’s Daily Text. He serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief. Follow him @jdwalt on Twitter or email him at

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