FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS,
volume 14, number 16, April 16, 2015
Jesus told us to expect it. He said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world the world would love its own, but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. . . If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you,” (John 15:18-20). He also said that when believers are persecuted the perpetrators of said persecution are doing us a favor. “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil things against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who went before you,” (Matthew 5:11,12). And just hours before our Lord Jesus was arrested, falsely accused, mocked, beaten, stripped naked, and crucified, experiencing a scandalous and shameful death, He told His disciples that in the world they should expect tribulation and hardship. They too would be falsely accused, imprisoned, disenfranchised, and murdered. However in the midst of it all, they were to take hold of courage. They were intentionally and deliberately, by faith, without wavering or caving into the antagonistic culture all around them, to stand in and for the truth. They were to be faithful to the Lord, no matter what happened. Why? Because the Lord Jesus had overcome the world. He would soon go to the cross where He would suffer the death and condemnation we deserve, and conquer the devil, sin, and death.
As we have been reading of late, our brothers and sisters in Muslim majority countries have been suffering in an awful fashion through jihadists like Isis and Boko Haram. In no way do I wish to minimize their suffering, and we should certainly pray for our brethren and help out financially and materially, if at all possible. However I wish now to address the growing persecution Christian believers are facing in the United States. We have never really suffered persecution in America. The United States has long been a majority Christian nation but that scenario is changing very rapidly. I suspect this will continue to grow and not dissipate.
The recent uproar by the liberal left against Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is groundless, misinformed hysteria. The law is almost identical to the Federal law signed by President Clinton in 1993. The law does not allow discrimination of homosexuals. The law is meant to protect any religious people, allowing them the freedom of conscience to worship as they see fit. In other words, if a Muslim woman wants to wear a head covering in the workplace, then the law makes clear that her employer cannot forbid her from doing so. The law is meant to protect a Jainist restauranteur, for example, from being forced to cater a wedding where roast beef is to be served. The hysteria on the left, being fueled, no doubt by the media, is meant to crush all opposition. They want to silence, once and for all, any objection, religious or otherwise, against the perversion of homosexuality.
So the persecution in the United States against Christians (the media opposition, thus far, has not mentioned Muslim opposition to homosexuality, same sex unions, or abortion) will only continue and grow. It is time for Christians in America to face the reality of the situation-we are a minority. Actually, this has been the case for many years now (a Wall Street Journal editorial in December, 2012 suggested that “born again” Christians number only 26 million in the United States).
We, then, have two options. First, we can retreat and give up the fight of faith. We can slink away from the public forum, wrench our hands each night as we watch Fox News, lamenting how bad things are, but then go about our business and family life, circling the wagons, hoping Jesus will return real soon to deliver us from this mess. Or second, we can do what Christians living under the Roman occupation did. While vastly outnumbered and living in the midst of the Roman hegemony, this disenfranchised, politically powerless minority took the gospel to the pagans and Jews. They preached the gospel in the streets, in the synagogues, in the homes of anyone who would listen. They built up the new believers in the faith, and they told them to do the same thing with friends and family members. They served the needy, especially children who were left to die by those who devalued life. They lived in a world very hostile to the gospel. They were maligned, mocked, and falsely accused of cannibalistic acts in their Communion services. They were beaten, imprisoned, and executed; but they continued to preach the gospel and make disciples. In due time Christianity overcame the Roman political and social ethos and the values of Christianity began to permeate the western world.
How were they able to see such monumental change, especially when they lived in the midst of a people so generally hostile to the gospel of the Lord Jesus? First, they had been changed by the gospel itself. They were new creations in Christ. They knew they had been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of light. In other words, they had been transformed by the work of Christ. Second, because of this magnificent change wrought in them, they were compelled by grace to make Christ known to everyone. They were fully aware of how wretched they had been and how this now placed a great obligation to publish these glad tidings of great joy to everyone who would listen. And third, they believed in and took hold of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. They had no power, no clout, and they knew it very well. They were desperate for grace and unction. Without it, they knew they had no chance at all to effect change. And fourth, they acted in faith. They did things, said things. They preached, taught the truth, and served the poor.
Our situation today reminds me of what Winston Churchill said in the dark days after Nazi Germany had conquered France and the British army barely escaped at Dunkirk. He gathered his cabinet and said, “France has fallen. The United States has not come to our aid. We are all alone, but I find it exhilarating.” While a minority, we, of course, are not alone. If we have the living God with us, then we are a majority. If God is for us, who then can be against us?
So, do not retreat. Do not go underground. Be emboldened. Move beyond your own personal walk with the Lord. Go beyond your concern for only your family. Go boldly with the gospel into the public square. Do not give an inch with God’s word. Do not be ashamed of the message of the cross. Always remember that the word of the cross to those who are perishing is foolishness. Expect persecution. Don’t shrink from it. Some may soon go to jail for their “hate speech.” Rejoice. You have a promised great reward in heaven. Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor in the Lord is never in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).
1. One of the major tenets of Jainism is non-violence, that all living things ought to be protected from death, including animals, plants, and insects.