Sunday November 2nd 2014 was Solidarity with the Suffering Church day. In Australia nearly 700 churches participated in this event. Many Christians wore T-shirts with the Arabic letter for ‘N’ emblazoned on is front. This came about from the Islamic Caliphate terrorist group painting that letter on Christian homes. It stood for ‘Nazarene’ that is Jesus of Nazareth, and it marked out those who were His followers. In many instances these disciples were martyred.
Persecution isn’t an experience confined to Christians. It is a worldwide, cross cultural and religious barriers phenomenon. Persecution stems from the heart of people twisted by strange, evil, undefined or antagonistic motives. Such emotions seeks to crush those with differing views or who unsettle personal prejudices and convictions. Unfortunately the Christian Faith endures what appears to be attacks from many quarters simply on the basis of commitment to Christ and the testimony of the cross.
The English word ‘Persecution’ comes from the Latin ‘prosequi’ meaning to prosecute and the Anglo/French word ‘pursuer’ to pursue. The intent is to treat badly and to harm.
Why do non-Christians want to eradicate the disciples of the Gospel which invites people to know what the heart longs for? What can that be? God’s love and forgiveness, to have hope in life and beyond, to enjoy inner peace and joy regardless of whether rich or poor, healthy or unwell! The Bible tells us opposition is for two reasons (at least). One is the World doesn’t want to acknowledge that Jesus is the prophesied One of the Old Testament. That person is revealed as both Son of Man and Son of God. The second reason is due to the Cross of Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:18-24) It is the cross which says no one can earn their way into Heaven and God’s favour. It is a declaration that God’s grace is to be accepted by faith and commitment to Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
This message is resisted, not because it is untrue or unverifiable. It is fought against not because it demeans or degrades. It is opposed because Christ Jesus not only has dealt with sin and offences against His Heavenly Father, but because He calls for a transformed life. People want to know forgiveness and experience love, joy and peace yet cling to their ungodly lifestyle. It amazes me how you can join any religious group by saying ‘yes’ to a number of untested statements but not have a change of heart. All that is required is saying some memorised prayers and perform some religiously ordained rituals. You can still lust, hate, steal, abuse others, lie, even murder and be ungodly in mind and behaviour and be considered a ‘good member of that religion. Jesus Christ will have none of that.
When a person accepts Christ as Lord and Saviour it begins a creative act by Him. Christ Jesus changes the person’s destiny from Hell to Heaven, raises the believer from spiritual death to a new life with eternity in it. In effect the person has a new heart, one that longs to know God’s will in preference to one’s selfish desires. (read 2 Corinthians 5) What the Lord Jesus does is give a new lifestyle to go with His high calling. It is a call to holy living above and beyond outward observances.
When this begins to take place a strange reaction sets in from former friends, even family, who are unsettled by the new you. Attempts are made to get you to recant your new found faith or to trip you up through temptation to your former life. Should this fail harsher methods are introduced such as ostracism from their presence to so called, ‘honour killings.’ The motive behind all these attacks is simple. They see what the Gospel can do to a person but they personally don’t want to surrender their pride, passions or prejudices to Truth. So there is only one thing to do, destroy the object which disturbs. So begins persecution of either an individual or a group.
Jesus warned His disciples that to follow Him was a dangerous, even life threatening choice. It stems from the fact that Jesus was not and is not part of this world’s system. They sought to destroy Him, but couldn’t, so the next thing is to destroy His people. Little do such persecutors realise that Christians are kept by the power of the risen Lord. Even if martyred or enslaved they have a place reserved for them in the presence of the Eternal Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (John 14-16. 1 Peter 1.)
In the face of all the opposition and persecution men and women of all ages still choose Christ Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life. Why? Because He is all that and more!