Reading about Christians in history, the worst persecution came from:
- Outside of the church
When “the world” persecutes people because they are Christians those who are in the church are there because they are passionate. Those who are there for any other reason than authenticity fade into the woodwork and hide. This is why I believe there is such growth in the church persecuted from the outside.
- Inside the church
In times of relative non persecution in society and worship freedom the church can become a place for people to gain money, power, prestige, and an outward stamp of morality. During this time we see religious leaders arise similar to those in Jesus’ time. These religious leaders have a position but not necessarily a relationship with God. They have the outward markings of clergy but the inner person of selfishness and ego. Doctrine of man becomes escalated over the very Word of God. Caveats and “explanations” are added by those with many degrees who discount the “simple” who have only just read their Bible. During this time Christians can have great confusion because they are being persecuted by fellow “Christians.” They are ostracized, removed, slandered, maligned, and in some cases killed by others who profess Jesus name.
I feel compelled to study and compile my thoughts on these two. First of all:
China is definitely experiencing persecution from the government. Amazingly, a NAMB missionary told me two weeks a go that it is estimated that 20,000 Chinese come to Jesus Christ daily. (Sadly 30,000 die daily!)
Twenty percent of the world today is Chinese. The Chinese view evangelical Christianity as a cult that undermines their power. They capture, torture, and force believers to recant or die. Their “reeducation” camps are a hotbed of abuse and agony for Christians some of whom are forced to take their small babies with them as they suffer in cold cells with no warmth. It breaks my heart to hear what is happening there. Many people in the US do not care.
In fact, Google recently agreed to filter “objectionable” material on behalf of the Chinese government. This “objectionable” material includes of course, the most threatening religion to the realm, evangelical Christianity. I believe that Google has abandoned American beliefs and has adopted a “Southpark” view of things:
- Sometimes what’s right isn’t as important as what’s profitable.
- Trey Parker and Matt Stone, South Park, Prehistoric Ice Man, 1999
All that being said, China has “most favored nation” status with the US and we continue to say nothing about this travesty of death and blood of the martyrs in China because obviously we don’t care to stick our tender necks out. We’d rather have $6 microwaves at WalMart than to anger the Chinese. Shame on us! Twenty percent of the world and we aren’t crying out!
Here are some observations from History when such persecution occurs:
Christians are often called to die and suffer for faith in Christ.
Physical Death. The Roman emperors were afraid of the growing number of Christians and hated their refusal to bow down to pagan Gods and declared that following Christ was a crime punishable by death. Paul was beheaded, Peter was crucified upside down. Christians were burned in oil, burned on crosses, thrown to the beasts, killed for entertainment by gladiators, and used as torches to light the Roman highway. Some were even used as “party torches” to illuminate the Roman gardens.
Suffering for faith. Christians in Nigeria are suffering now as violence has erupted between Christians and Muslims sparked by the cartoons run in Danish newspapers defaming the Muslim prophet, Muhammad. Fox news reports that Christians are instigating it with their headline Nigerian Christians mob Muslims, blame for World’s problems. As the article goes on, one see that it is pretty much tit for tat — nonetheless someone at FOX did a sensational headline which in my opinion is misleading and one sided.
If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
Do not expect the world to love you or even like you. We must, however, love the world for which our Savior gave His precious life. For at one time, we too were part of that lost and dying world.
Christians are wrongly accused of many terrible things
In Rome, one early Christian said,
“If the rivers flood, or if there is drought or famine or plague, the pagans cry: ‘Throw the Christians to the lions!'”
Nero blamed the Christians for burning Rome. Later emperors blamed Christians for the fall of Rome.
People will stereotype and disdain everything about you. Today, Seesholtz in the Online Journal claims the “Christian Right has gone over the edge.” He calls Christian leaders “dour, sour, and humorless.” He accuses Christians of being “nonsensical” and “believers in fairy tales” and equates Christian beliefs taught to a four year old akin to the “bogeyman under the bed.” He says that “no one is being hurt” when gays and lesbians marry although we know that that will bring an increasing judgement against our country. He says the only thing in the media is TV evangelists saying “God needs your money.” (I can’t say I don’t disagree there — more later.) This author goes on to quote the Christian humor hotline which he goes onto insinuate that Christian leaders obviously don’t read.
I’m not defending all Christian “leaders” for we know that throughout history there have been many Christian leaders guilty of being false prophets and untrue to the Word of God. There are many in our world today. But to lump all Christians together as being of the same mind is like saying children all over the world are alike — they’re called children, aren’t they! Christians SHOULD act like it and SHOULD have the same beliefs. We know this not to be true and therefore Jesus said, “By your fruits you shall know them.”
Jesus’ message to the church persecuted from the outside
“…I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
Revelation 2:10, 11
Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”’
“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.
29 So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife[a] or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, 30 who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
8 Be sober, be vigilant; because[a] your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 10 But may[b] the God of all grace, who called us[c] to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. 11 To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
My Thoughts On Persecution from the World
So, get over it. Don’t marvel at the persecution. Don’t be amazed that you’re left out. Don’t be surprised when you are misunderstood and made fun of. Serve others. When they are sick, take them food. When they are lonely visit them.
People on top of the hills love to roll rocks down on “weak Christians” but when they are in the ditch and no one else is there, they will usually take our hands as we offer them love, care, support, and prayers. A weak person fights their enemies, a strong one ministers to them.
Winston Churchill once said: “Never, never, never, never give up.” My father has drilled it into my head.
We must remember that and work until Jesus comes. There is no retirement in God’s kingdom. The old song says “We will work till Jesus comes” not “We will work until we’re tired.” Tired has nothing to do with it!
A note to all Southern Baptists
The Southern Baptist Convention has posted nomination forms for trustees at SBC Recommendation forms. – http://www.sbc.net/forms/recommendationform.asp
This is a long and difficult form, however, pray and consider who God would have you nominate for one of the Boards of the IMB. I know who I want to nominate. Do you?
Someone told me I was wasting my time because it was “pretty much a closed shop.” But, I can pray and we’ll see. God’s the shop owner and reserves the right to intervene!
Lord, today calm the storms in Nigeria and help the Christians there remember You word. Lord, be with the Christians in China and help the Christians in the US not forget our brethren there. Let us be willing to exert our influence to secure liberty for our brethren in chains and peril of death. Lord, help us stand against persecution with love, security, kindness, and patience. Let us pray for those who hurt us and spitefully use us. Help us to be kind to others. Thank you for your goodness! Be with the nominations process for the Southern Baptist Convention and help us to become participators as you instruct us to. Let us work diligently! I love you, Lord. In Jesus name. Amen.