Hello, friends. I hope this article finds you well. The subject is an uncomfortable one, but Christians need to stop ignoring it. The threat of persecution is growing, as is hostility towards Christians. Is our faith in, and love for, Christ able to endure?
Jesus says for the final Beatitude,
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
It is important to note the distinction Jesus is making. Simply being persecuted does not bring about blessing. Rather, being persecuted for righteousness’ sake and on account of Jesus. It is true, to follow Christ will invite persecution, but so will being a jerk. It is important that we know the difference. If you are disliked at work because you are arrogant and rude, don’t blame such ostracizing on the Christian faith. Such “persecution” has nothing to do with faith. No one likes a jerk.
However, there is a flip side. Several years ago a book was released, entitled, They Like Jesus but Not the Church. This is a catchy title, but it’s simply not true. It is true that many people are turned off by the hypocrisy in churches, but this is merely an excuse for not following Jesus Christ. Jesus never calls people to follow His followers. No, He calls persons to follow after Him. Using the hypocrisies in the church for an excuse to not follow Christ is an understanding one, just not an honest or acceptable one.
Jesus tells us plainly,
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. ~ John 15:18-19
[The world] hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. ~ 7:7
Following and surrendering to Christ has nothing to do with the church, but everything to do with one’s desire for Christ and His love. Many persons are familiar with John 3:16. However, after this Jesus says,
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. ~ John 3:18-19
Many churches and believers have tried to befriend the world at the expense of godly conviction and true biblical teaching. But when push comes to shove, they will be loyal either to Christ or the world. If Christ, they will be persecuted by the very ones they sought to befriend.
We are told, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). An example that comes to mind is Tim Tebow. Here is a man who conducts himself with class and dignity, one who is very consistent in his Christian walk, and one who does not bad mouth others. Yet, the media loves to slam this man. Why? What wrong has he done?
Yet, I want to move on to even more serious aspects. There is an ever growing acceptance of Marxist ideas (socialism) in America, both in Washington and academia. What is more astonishing to me, however, is how many who profess the name of Christ are supportive of individuals who hold to such ideas. But mark my words, as Marxist ideas become increasingly rooted, Christians will reap the fruit of intense persecution. Karl Marx (followed by men such as Nietzsche) was an angry individual who held to a hatred of Christianity (and humanity), and this is made evident wherever socialism/communism rises to power.
At this point, some will accuse Christianity of the same, bringing up the Roman Catholic Church and the Crusades. This must not be ignored, but there also must be understanding. Many of the Popes (including the present one, I dare say, who is in league with those holding Marxist ideas and occultic New Agers in quest for the New World Order, which is anti-Christ at its core) were/are godless men who love and abuse power. In fact, many genuine Christians were tortured and killed under their regimes. As for the Crusaders, many of whom were godless, worthless fellows who delighted in cruelty. These men were not Christians in any sense of the word.
So, is persecution coming? I believe it is not a matter of if, at this point, but when. Part of this, I believe, revolves around God’s judgment, first of society and its immersion in sin, but also the modern church for its own compliance with and complacency.
In Romans, chapter 1, Paul discusses three levels of judgment that can come to a people. First, God gives people over to their open and accepted immorality.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. ~ Romans 1:24-25
Next comes when God gives people over to practice their desire for homosexuality and other unnatural passions.
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. ~ Romans 1:26-27
Third, God gives people over to their acceptance and approval of sins of all kinds.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. ~ Romans 1:28-32
Are we not seeing this happening in our own society as what is evil is called good, and what is good is mocked and called evil. What will eventually happen, just as it did with the fall of Rome, is Christians will be blamed for the collapse and chaos. We are seeing this even now as some are teaching that Christian ideas, the Bible, and prayer are “dangerous.” Society will use Christians as a scapegoat, denying that it is their own lusts, greed, idolatry, and violence that brought the chaos (Augustine writes about this in his work, The City of God).
I believe the writing is on the wall. If the course we are on does not change, then we are going to face real persecution. Are we ready? Our attendance to cool worship services will not sustain us, but only a genuine faith in Jesus Christ and the filling of His Holy Spirit. As it is, we can continue to play religious games, but if persecution comes then such games are going to stop. Persecution will reveal what we are made of.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. ~ Matthew 5:12