“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Persecution, even to the death, is nothing new to those professing the Christian faith; the first widespread persecution occured in Jerusalem and was recorded in Acts 8:1-3. Persecution has followed the Body of Christ around the world, coming and going in waves through the centuries, leaving trails of blood-stained ground and ashes in its wake. Persecution of Christians is still alive and well today in many places around the world, not just the Middle East. Red China has persecuted Christians diligently for decades; a growing number of states in India have passed laws outlawing evangelizing; California has been trying to pass a law banning the Bible; the homosexual community has targeted Christian business owners such as bakers. But what we have been seeing today is just the beginning of a much worse persecution to come prophesied in Revelation 12:17 and usually referred to as the War Against the Saints. Anti-Christian rhetoric is on the rise; churches have been burned. If you, as a Bible-believing Christian, start visibly standing against the rising tide of wickedness and depravity in the modern, increasingly secular world, you’ll get labelled a bigot, intolerant, hateful… While the outright killing of believers is still largely outside of the Western democracies, the attitude of hate and enmity towards us grows more prevalent; popular talk show hosts refer to faith as a mental illness, and in the wake of the uproar concerning comments made over the illegal immigration into America I’ve read comments suggesting that “these Christians” should be put in our place “once and for all.” It is coming and many will fall; few will escape unscathed. What can we do? Pray, get grounded in the Word, live in submission to our Savior. Jesus told us in Matthew 10:23 that when we are persecuted in one place we should flee to another (as opposed to provoking martyrdom) and that is of course sound advice. But we still cannot quiet our voices in opposition to evil. The early Christian writer Tertullian once famously declared that “the blood of the martyrs is seed”, and succeeding history has proved him right on at least that point; many cases from the apostolic age to the present have recorded the persecutors coming to faith and becoming Christians through seeing how Christians bore up under torture and death. So we should continue speaking the truth from the Scriptures and confronting evil, flee persecution when possible, and face the worst with all the dignity and courage that the Holy Spirit gives us. And never lose sight of the promise of God to resurrect us to eternal life reigning with Christ, for this life is but a shadow that flits across the earth compared to an eternity with our Lord.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.