Our “Taboo” focus this week is persecution against Christians. This Sunday, November 1, is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.
The subject of persecution is uncomfortable
First, we feel a little guilty in our personal comfort while others are losing their lives for the sake of the gospel. But we grow the most uncomfortable when we honestly wrestle over questions about why we are not persecuted.
Persecution is something we read about but never experience. Yes, we may face discrimination or social opposition, we are not threatened, harassed, or imprisoned for our faith in Christ. Unlike Christians elsewhere, we do not suffer nor do we fear for our safety. Our daughters are not kidnapped and raped, our sons are not beaten and beheaded, and our homes and churches are not burned to the ground.
Persecution against Christians takes place today in the Middle East, in Western Africa, and in the Far East. Christians are arrested, imprisoned, and executed in North Korea, China, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Burkina Faso, and Bangladesh. Christians lose their jobs and their security in Qatar, Russia, India, and Iraq.
Persecution is most extreme wherever the church is most impactful
Demonic forces are behind every act of persecution against Christians. Governments and individuals may be the actors, but their hateful opposition is inspired by “the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world, and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12).”
Over the last decade one million Christians around the world have been martyred for their faith. Persecution of Christians is more prevalent today than at any other time in history. It occurs in much of the world. It is occurring right now as you read these words.
That is why we participate in the International Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians.
Persecution of Christians is most intense wherever the cultural impact of Christians is most significant. Conversely, wherever Christians are apathetic, spiritually anemic, or ingrained in the culture, persecution does not occur.
A spiritual explanation is easy to identify. Wherever Christians are most engaged in overthrowing the “prince of this world,” persecution is the most extreme.
When will American Christians experience the same intense persecution?
I was asked this question earlier this week. The answer is simple: we will face persecution when we follow Christ with the depth and determination of our persecuted brothers and sisters.
We will remain safe from persecution so long as we remain unconcerned about the lost, indifferent about obedience to Scripture, and uninvolved in genuine discipleship. We have nothing to worry about unless we become concerned about the lost and serious about the work of making disciples.
Christians who are persecuted today boldly share their personal stories of redemption in Christ. They are busy making disciples of Christ who likewise are busy making disciples of Christ. Wherever the Church is engaged in such things, persecution is intense.
The American model of discipleship focuses on information and personal knowledge. We learn about the Bible. We have conversations about the Bible. Too often, however, our study of Scripture does not result in personal action accompanied by accountability.
The American perspective on salvation is, “Jesus forgave my sins and one day, when I die, I will go to heaven.” The biblical understanding of salvation is, “I have been saved by Christ for the purpose of sharing Christ with the rest of the world.” As long as we ignore the biblical perspective, we will remain safe from persecution.
Embracing the Great Commission may mean embracing persecution.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20).”
Our enemy, “the prince of this world,” is perfectly content watching us drift along with the current of the culture. He has no issue with us as we gather together for an hour each week with little concern over the lostness of our neighborhoods, communities, and nation.
However, know this: persecution will come if and when we “wake up from our slumber (Romans 13:11).” When we become serious about reaching the lost and determined to disciple those being saved, we will join our brothers and sisters in their suffering for the cause of Christ.