I met over 20 young, international pastors back in 2006. They came to Dallas Theological Seminary for a month to attend classes, stay with host families and to encourage each other. Those who were able to host and interact with these men saw a true glimpse of what the universal church looks like.
It was interesting to witness men from bordering countries that could potentially wipe each other off the map sitting together, breaking bread and sharing stories about their churches back home. A tight bond seemed to form between these men in a short amount of time.
One pastor from Southeast Asia told me about the persecution he and other Christians faced in his country from the government and society. I commented on how hard that must be and how hard it must be for followers of Christ to trust in God while they are persecuted. He surprised me by saying his fellow believers welcomed persecution.
Welcomed persecution? That didn’t compute so I asked him to repeat himself. He confirmed that he and his fellow believers felt persecution they face helps to purify the church. Hearing more stories as the week went along, I realized many of the other pastors felt the same way.
I remember thinking how far apart our worlds seemed. I didn’t know any of my fellow believers who were facing individual threats of violence, social ostracism and even death for their beliefs on American soil. These men from countries hostile to Christianity exuded a joy I had not witnessed before and I wrestled with how they could be content with turning the other cheek on a regular basis.
Almost a decade has passed since then and a shift has occurred rapidly. A vocal minority is able to outshout a majority these days via social and mainstream media. Unfortunately, the message of a savior who came to die for our sins and rise again to give us new life has to compete with the messages of political scandal, what diet is best and how celebrities behave (or don’t).
It is possible we will see America become a place where persecution against Christians looks like the persecution seen in other countries, even to the point of violence or even to the point of death?
Persecution is promised in the Bible for every Christian.
“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” – 2 Timothy 3:12
Christians in America are often a punch line in many circles as our country’s Christian heritage is ignored in favor of a secular-humanist approach to education, lifestyle and social programs. Yet, nobody I know is enduring threats of violence, actual violence, church burnings and public shaming as a norm.
Yet, it does appear Christianity is under attack here in the States and more believers are growing uncomfortable as the mainstream culture continues to shift.
My first reaction to this shift is to fight the changing tide. I want to argue the case for Christianity. I want to point out the errors in the opposing arguments. I want to trade verbal punches with a motivated opponent. I might even want to get a little snarky, sarcastic and mean-spirited in my response.
This attitude in me does nothing for the Kingdom of God. God doesn’t need me to battle on His behalf. It’s not my battle to begin with. I am thankful scripture does tell me how to react so that I don’t overreact.
I Am To Understand
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” – Matthew 5:10-11
There is a bigger picture and God sees it. Any persecution down here on Earth, big or small, has a purpose and the kingdom of heaven awaits the persecuted.
Ugly actions are to be expected toward anyone professing Christ as savior and living it out. My international friends seem to have a firm grip on this understanding.
I Am To Pray For The Afflicted Here And Abroad
“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” – Hebrews 13:3
I Am To Endure
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” – 2 Corinthians 4:8-9
I Am To Love
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” – Romans 12:14
It does hurt to know many would like to see the influence of Christianity removed from a country built on Judeo-Christian ethics. It also hurts to see many choose death over life and passionately reject any thoughts contrary to a self-centered existence. And it does hurt knowing my family, my friends, my church and my brothers and sisters worldwide will continue to face various degrees of evil for the sake of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection to free us from sin.
Levels of persecution against Christians may grow across the world and in our country. Knowing we are to expect persecution, endure it, pray through it and love those who persecute us and other believers, we get to play an active role in the work of the universal church. Our level of joy may increase as we cling on to the one hope we have in Christ. We might even grow content to turn the other cheek as long as the Kingdom of God benefits.
Here are other Frequently Asked Questions and how the Bible answers them.