We Americans have been spoiled. For all our lives, the expectation of freedom to believe what we wanted, worship as we wanted, speak biblical truth without fear of reprisal, and be the open ‘conscience of our nation’ has been part of our social fabric. Persecution was always something I heard of behind the Iron Curtain in communist countries, or more recently in Islamic countries.
In the last few years, and now with increasing openness and vitriol, marginalization of those who hold traditional or conservative beliefs, especially biblical Christian faith, has come to America. Mainstream evening news is filled with verbal assaults on those who do not agree with modern ethical positions. People who express opinions out of line with the latest PC views are banned from communication platforms. Do not be deceived: Christians with convictions about biblical truth have already been the focus of withering persecution in America, and a time of general persecution will follow very soon.
As I contemplate this trajectory in our country, I am regularly blessed, uplifted, encouraged, and strengthened by reading of my brothers and sisters around the world who have been living with persecution for years, even generations! Here are a few illustrations from recent weeks:
- Nigerian families were awakened by the sound of gunfire and shouting in the middle of the night. They grabbed their children and fled their village as militant Islamic Fulani burned their homes and stole their crops. The next morning, they trudged to the nearest town, looking for shelter and food.
- Warned of an impending Islamist attack, believers in northern Mozambique hurriedly fled their homes, leaving everything behind. Having lived in temporary housing for more than two years now, they long for the encouragement of Bibles to read.
- Three Khmu families in Laos were told they would have to leave their village if they continued to follow Christ. The families now live in a shelter they built by the main road. They forage for food in the forest, uncertain what they will do when the small amount of rice they have runs out.
- A mob of more than 600 Hindus vandalized the homes and properties of 84 Christians in the Kondagaon district of Chhattisgarh state, India, driving the Christians into the jungle. After the attacks, the Hindus set up a tent on a main highway to cook and eat the chicken and rice stolen from the Christians’ homes. When a VOM (Voice of the Martyrs) worker met with some of the Christians recently, one told him, “Being a human, I was filled with anger, but I was reminded that Jesus taught us to forgive our enemy. I know some of the people who were part of the angry crowd, but I prayed and forgave them.” (see photo here)
Acts 5 records the withering persecution faced by the apostles and the early church. They were arrested, imprisoned, beaten, and threatened with death. Their unwavering commitment to the gospel and truth led them to declare to the authorities, “We must obey God rather than men” (v29). This didn’t stop their suffering, but it filled them with joy. In Acts 5.41 we read:
So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.
Like those early Christians, millions of Christians today are facing persecution, and standing strong for Jesus Christ. We should remember these saints. As we stand with them in prayer, we will become more prepared ourselves to suffer for Christ.