Fact: persecution of Christians, especially in Asia and Africa, occurs today like it did in the New Testament book of Acts.
Easter Sunday, 2019, Sri Lanka – terrorists bomb Roman Catholic churches killing more than 300 and leaving hundreds more gravely injured. Reported only minimally in the West was the attack on a Methodist prayer center on Palm Sunday one week prior to the Easter bombings. In 2018 Christians were victims of dozens of acts of violence.
Palm Sunday, April 14, 2019, Nigeria – Zealots killed 17 Christians ranging in ages from 10-80 following a baby dedication at Ruhaniya Baptist Church. The group gathered for a celebration meal when the murderers unloaded their weapons as the friends and family ate together. The mother of the baby was killed in the attack, and the father was critically wounded.
April 12, 2019, Egypt – A mob attacked a Christian Coptic congregation during its children’s Bible classes injuring two priests and damaging the church building. One day before the attack, the village mayor confiscated building materials from the church premises. The church was expanding its structure to accommodate a growing congregation.
January 27, 2019, Philippines – terrorists bomb a Roman Catholic cathedral killing 20.
January 13, 2019, India – Local police disrupt a worship service arresting the pastor and other church leaders. They tortured the pastor before releasing her. In the first two months of the year, there have been 77 verified acts of violence against Christians in India, including two murders of men in their 40s, expulsion from places of residence in villages, and physical coercion of converts to seek forgiveness from local Hindu temples for embracing Christianity.
Search the Internet for yourself and you will read of Christian persecution in Afghanistan, Cameroon, Chad, China, Columbia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Libya, Mexico, North Korea, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, and in dozens more countries.
Persecutors, mobs, oppressors, and terrorists make no distinction between “Bible believing Christians” and anyone else connected to any Christian denomination. They kill, torture, kidnap, rape, and abuse indiscriminately.
If you are a Christian of any variety in dozens of countries worldwide, you are a potential target. If you openly evangelize in dozens of countries worldwide, you may be arrested and jailed without legal representation. In dozens of countries worldwide if a small group prayer meeting meets in your home, you risk the loss of your property, your employment, your children’s education, and maybe your health or your life.
This is the reality of what it means to be a Christian in a significant part of the world.
For us in the United States, we have been mostly spared from the kind of persecution Christians experience worldwide on a daily basis. Even where acts of violence have occurred in Christian churches in the United States, the evidence suggests the deeds were often related to race relations, domestic clashes, or psychopathic behaviors.
Jesus and his apostles warned and instructed the early Christians about the inevitability of persecution. Revelation hails the faithfulness of those who suffered for the cause of Christ. Acts records the bloody scenes of many Christians.
Jesus’s words and the apostolic instruction were not only for the first Christians. They instruct us as well. The stories in Acts serve as models for us to follow. The promise to the martyrs in Revelation may belong to some of us.
I don’t know if the persecution experienced across the oceans will reach our shores in my lifetime or yours or ever. I do know there is a price to pay to follow Jesus. There is no price for your salvation. That’s a free gift to you. Jesus paid with his life what we receive by grace alone through faith alone. Yet, there is a price to be his disciple (Luke 14:25-35).
The price may be friends.The price may be acceptance of your family and your children by those in your kids’ school or by the other members of your kids’ athletic teams or school clubs. The price may be advancement in your career or no career at all. Your unbelieving spouse may walk out on you if you follow Jesus too closely. Your parents may disown you if you follow Jesus as if there is nothing more important to you in the entire world than Jesus. You may sit by yourself in the school café because you follow Jesus. You may not be included in side conversations if you follow Jesus. You may be shunned, mocked, or ignored if you boldly follow Jesus. You may be alone in your moment of great need if you follow Jesus. The price to follow Jesus may be your life.
Paul boldly asserts, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” Are you?
What can we do?
First, we can and must pray for persecuted Christians (Hebrews 13:3).
Second, we can encourage Christians around the globe suffering or threatened by persecution. For example, in our church are Cameroonians, and we partner with gospel workers in India and Uganda. Simple words of comfort and love contribute to their faithfulness to Jesus.
Third, be faithful to Jesus here and now in this mostly peaceful realty we enjoy in the United States. Jesus first and Jesus only despite any potential ramifications must be our disposition. How likely are we to live for Jesus in persecution if we do not live for him in peace? Should our children and the generations after us face persecution will they be able to look at our faithfulness to Jesus as a model for their faithfulness to Jesus?
Remember Paul’s words as he writes to the church in Philippi from his jail cell? By God’s grace may his words be ours.
According to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain (1:20-21).
As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.