There is much resistance for Christians in the world today. I cannot recount, on a global scale, all that is going on in the realm of Christianity, but here I would like to comment on the things that I see pushing against followers of Christ. This one is close to my chest, and I think you will see that as you read. I feel as though I need to write this for those who are struggling in their faith, and I need to write this to help sort out my own struggles and relationships. These are a few ruminations and my prayer is that the hope and light of Christ will be seen through them.
When we think of the persecution of Christians we think of dying for the faith. We may think of the great heroes of the Christian movement, Stephen the first martyr in the book of Acts, 6.8-8.3. If you know of Church history you might recall that Emperor Nero would crucify Christians upside-down, cover them in wax, and light them on fire, all for the sake of an illuminated garden. We know that many have died for claiming the name of Christ, and that this still goes on today, and our prayers should go to all those suffering for His name, it is not what I mean to talk about. I mean to talk about a subtle persecution. The sneer from your coworker as you talk to a friend by the coffee machine about last week’s sermon. The lingering stares, and eye rolls, as you finish a prayer before your meal, the awkward silence berating your sense by unbelieving family and friends, the contempt on people’s faces as you pray to God for a suffering Japan, as though their body language were screaming, “a loving God would not let that happen!” These subtle forms of condescension are persecution, and though they are not physically detrimental they are still painful. To suffer the loss of respect from someone you love because you claim that Christ is your Lord, is indeed a sliver in the heart.
Is Belief in Jesus Arrogant?
Many times when we offer the Good News of Christ, that he is the Truth, the Life, and the Way and that no one can come to the Father except through Him (John 14.6), we are seen as insensitive, unloving, arrogant Christians. But is this true? Is it unloving to say to an unrepentant sinner, “God sent his Son to die on behalf of the curse of sin that governs your life. If you would but turn to the cross and accept Jesus as Lord, you will spend life eternal by His side.”? It seems to me that there is nothing more loving we can do as Christians than to offer the only hope there is. If your neighbor were on fire, would you not put her out? If your neighbor were living in unrepentant sin which leads to the eternal fire, would you not lovingly offer grace, which leads to eternal life? Believing that Jesus is the only way to salvation is not arrogant, my friends, it is the Truth. The history of redemption tells the story of God bringing the perfect Lamb to suffer the penalties of the sin of the world. It is not unloving to accept Jesus and deny other religions, it is unloving to accept other religions by denying Christ. When we suffer the rolling eyes, the sneers, the smirks, the high-held-heads of others, we suffer justly. “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him” (John 1.10) And again, “This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil” (John 3.19)
You may be wondering: how does this help me get through the persecution? The Bible tells us that when we suffer we do not suffer alone. Let’s see what the Gospels say about it.
John 15.18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.
Matthew 10.16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
I hope you can see that in these two passages, persecution is a promise. If we follow Christ, if we proclaim Him as Lord, we will be persecuted by those around us. Do you not then believe that if persecution is a promise, then God has found a way to bring us out of it? Read what Paul writes:
Romans 8.35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It may hurt, but the hope, the promise, is that God will not let us go, no matter what happens. No matter if our family forsakes us, our friends depart, the world chases us, or people murder us, our Lord will hold us in His love, and the price is certainly worth it.