Is Persecution Coming?

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

What a sad commentary concerning modern Christendom, when ministers do not preach the whole counsel of God for fear someone might be offended. Yet, is there any fear of God being offended?

For fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. ~ John 12:42-43

There are times when we have little to give. Yet, if surrendered to God, even our little can go a long way. A warm smile, sincere smile, a kind note, a hug, a conversation over coffee, a listening ear, or an acknowledgment of someone’s existence and worth can go a long way. Society tells us we need “stuff,” but it is the little things that give us purpose and hope.

There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many? ~ John 6:9

Somehow the church in the West has become like businesses that do not want to disappoint customers and catering to the whims of potential members. But we need true men of God filled with the Holy Spirit who will proclaim truth, whether people listen or not. It is better to let persons choose to be condemned than to have blood on our hands because of distorting the truth and being condemned with them.

And you shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear, for they are a rebellious house. ~ Ezekiel 2:7

The Anatomy of Love

Our society talks a lot about love. It is portrayed in movies, sang about in songs, placed on t-shirts (eg., “I [heart] _____”), and painted on posters (e.g., “Give love a chance” “Make love, not war”). But the love of the world is, too often, romanticized and superficial. After all, many in Hollywood know nothing of devoted commitment of the characters they portray. Music celebrities are often known for their activities with groupies after the gigs. T-shirts are mere pieces of cloth, and those at protest rallies with posters crying out for love are often vessels of hatred, spewing out, “Burn in hell!” Die, you pigs!” “Damn you!” to all who disagree with their position.

The world’s version(s) of love is childish, fairy-tale make believe. The world’s version is like a marshmallow, a squishy puff of sugar. However, authentic love has substance of bone and flesh, so to speak, having an actual anatomy.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-6

Now, let’s consider briefly the anatomy, or structure, of love:

Patient (or long-suffering) – love bears with other’s differences, quirks, and mistakes without becoming quickly annoyed or rejecting hastily.

Kind – love is gentle and benevolent.

Content – love is not competitive; it is not envious when someone else has nor does it boast when someone else does not have.

Humble – love views others with equality of worth; it does not show partiality nor is it filled with contempt for others. Love does not feel superior to others.

Selfless – love does not demand its own way but considers the needs and wants of others. 

Levelheaded / Forgiving – love does not keep tally each time another fails, demanding absolute perfection. Love does not nurse a grudge to keep such bitterness alive.

Righteous / Honest – love does not not delight in evil or harm of others, nor does it take any delight in falsehood, gossip, or slander.

When fleshed out, love has real substance. Genuine love is not for the weak. Any fool can get angry, be rude, refuse to forgive, or desire harm to another. Any fool can scream profanities and derogatory statements in the midst of a rally. And any fool can look upon another with such contempt and hatred easily enough. 

It is easy to betray a friendship when one does not get his or her own way. It is easy to curse another rather than taking the time to understand them. However, what is hard, what is extremely difficult, is having genuine benevolence for others simply because they are human beings, regardless if they are like us, or attractive to us, or even kind toward us.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good …Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. ~ Romans 12:9, 13-21

In the Person of Jesus Christ we have the perfect example of genuine love put into action. Jesus was kind and welcoming to the misfits and outcasts; He was gentle with people’s failures and shortcomings. While the Scriptures do show He was angry on a few occasions, it was always in connection with people’s hypocrisy, injustice, and hard-heartedness towards others; ironically, He prayed for forgiveness concerning those who persecuted and crucified Him.

Genuine love is both benevolent and sacrificial for the sake of others. For all the talk and portrayals of love in our society, do these correspond with reality? How can it when we are so busy flinging mud, refusing to see any common ground; when we have such disdain for others whose political leanings are different than ours; when the “end justifies the means” while destroying others, regardless of any deception or smoke and mirrors, as if injustice can bring about justice?

My friend, love is hard. It requires courage to lower the defenses and resolve to put off our egos. It requires humility to “turn the other cheek” and to consider the needs of others. It requires commitment to hang tight when every part of you simply wants to let go. Only as we are willing to become weak will we truly become strong.

“Hell no! That’s stupid! I’m not humbling myself for nobody!” many will say. Ah, but this is precisely why we are in the mangled, divided mess we are in today. Nevertheless, unless we are willing to humble our own selves, extend kindness, meet on some common ground, and treat others with courtesy and respect, we might as well throw away our banners and burn our placards extolling love and unity. For there is no other way these can be attained. We must study the anatomy of love and put into practice its various elements. Cursing, force, and violence will only  produce more unrest, keeping us in the mangled, bloody mess we are in. Only genuine love will lead us to a productive peace and unity we claim to desire.

The Importance of a Woman Respecting Her Husband

In my last article I wrote on the importance of a man loving his wife. This time around, I am writing on the importance of a woman respecting her husband. I cannot count all the times through the years I’ve heard women say things like, “I ain’t respecting my husband, he doesn’t deserve respect!” or all the times I’ve heard women belittle their husbands to others. A wife’s disrespect is just as injurious to a marriage as a husband’s lack of love and gentleness.

One of the grave misconceptions in our society, as noted by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs in, Love and Respect, is that love is to be unconditional, whereas respect is to be earned. However, this view of respect (and honor) is not biblical. Followers of Christ are not to wait to show respect to others until they prove themselves to be worthy. Neither are Christians granted permission by God to withhold respect to those who are jerks. As difficult as this is, He calls us to a higher standard.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church … However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. ~ Ephesians 5:25, 33

Just as a man is not told to love his wife along with the clause, “unless she is difficult or disrespectful,” neither is a woman commanded to respect her husband with an understanding “unless he is harsh or acting like an imbecile.”

Eggerichs is correct, generally speaking, when he notes that men and women desire both love and respect. However, where women tend to desire more to be loved, men desire more to be respected. To the Christian couple, these are not arbitrary commands; rather, a Christian marriage is to reflect the loving and glorious relationship between Christ and His church.

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. ~ Ephesians 5:31-32

What an amazing way Christ loves, cherishes, nurtures, and protects His church. How repulsive when men mistreat their wives! What a glorious thing when the church honors Christ by respecting and yielding to Him. Yet, how revolting when women disrespect and resist their husbands at every turn.

The breakdown of every failed marriage is a result of persons disregarding the foundational importance of love and respect (or respect and love).

The Importance of a Man Loving His Wife

In the outcry against sins of society, a Christian man can neglect to decry his own sin in his own home—namely, the sin of neglecting to love his wife as Christ loves His church (which a number of other sins can be attached to this: pride, anger, harshness, sexual withholding or abuse, verbal and emotional abuse, etc.).

Too many Christian men have perverted the passage that reads, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church” (Eph. 5:22-23), meanwhile totally ignoring the command just a few verses later:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her … In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church. ~ Ephesians 5:25, 28-29 (ESV)

Regardless if a man is a simple layperson or a preacher with theologically solid and polished sermons, he can give a thousand and one reasons why he might disrespect and mistreat his wife, all of these reasons are inexcusable before the Lord who calls him to love his wife and honor his vows to her (before Him and witnesses).

Does a man think the Lord ignores or treats flippantly a man treating his wife poorly? The apostle writes,

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. ~ 1 Peter 3:7

Understand, the Bible is not at all saying the woman is lesser or inferior. In fact, her qualities are to compliment the man’s, just as his are to compliment the woman’s. A man is to love, nourish, cherish, and honor his wife. To neglect these is to both neglect himself and have his prayers hindered. As Christian men decrying the sins and corruption of society, may we also be all the more vigilant in decrying any sin of our own where we might be dishonoring, harsh, and demeaning to our wives. God is just as condemning of these as He is of any sin we might cry out against in society.