In parts of China, right now, people are being forced to make choices between their Christian faith and surviving the economic pressure being put upon them for being a Christian. In at least two provinces all social assistance is denied to practicing Christians. Their children are being discriminated against, and in some cases, banned from school and University. Large fines are also levied against practicing Christians and churches restricted to fifty members or less.
Fortunately, this persecution is not wide spread across China but the fact that it goes on at all is a dismal sign of how perilous it can be to practice the Christian faith in parts of the world. But China is not the only place where persecution is springing up in the world. We are all familiar with persecution in Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Iran, and Sudan but now Russia seems to have returned to the old Soviet style of oppression once common in the nation.
Christians are forbidden to speak of their faith in the workplace and if they do, not only them, but also the church they belong to are fined. Even individual worship within the privacy of a home is restricted if there is a non-Christian present. Evangelism and rallies are both out under the guise of the nation fighting terrorism. Only the Russian Orthodox Church is exempt from these draconian restrictions.
So how will the world church respond to this continuous and ever increasing form of persecution? Economic boycott has always seemed to be at the heart of persecution. Christians have been, and continue to be, forced between following their faith or compromising for the sake of surviving economically.
But not all persecution is so “in your face” as that now taking place in Russia, parts of China, and much of the Muslim world. Compromise has always been the tool of the state in breaking down the resistance of Christians during times of persecution. In the time of the Roman Empire the Emperor was worshipped as a God and this contrasted with the early Church’s view that only God was worthy of worship. Persecution of Christians became widespread because they were deemed as traitors to their country for not putting the welfare of the nation ahead of their own beliefs.
The Roman authorities asked Christians and non-Christians alike to burn a small piece of incense as a symbol of worship to the Emperor once a year in order to assure the prosperity and success of the Empire. Understanding the reluctance of Christians to make this public statement of support for the Emperor/God, they came up with an idea to make it easy on Christians to keep their faith and obey the edict that everyone must burn incense to the Emperor.
Christians could come at night when no one was around in the Temple and burn just a very small amount of incense. Usually defined as what could be held between the thumb and tip of the first finger. Then the Christian could go back to his world and no one would be the wiser concerning his compromise. For a great many Christians, even this was too much and they chose death over compromise.
Ruth and I were talking yesterday about this worldwide persecution and I mentioned that we need only trust in God and He will see us through. But Ruth asked, “What if He doesn’t? What if we end up like so many Christians throughout history and actually have to face life and death decisions concerning our faith?” To be honest, I had never thought about that before as I had always assumed I would be protected from all the nasty consequences of persecution.
If was faced with a life threatening persecution I would like to think I would be strong and not compromise my faith. But does my tract record lead me to think that I would be able to stand firm in the face of overwhelming pressure “to go along to get along”.
Ask yourself how often you compromise your faith right now and there are not even any ugly consequences for wanting to make that compromise. I find myself ignoring opportunities to share my faith and watch movies that have violent content and think nothing of it. I talk to Christians all the time who live on a diet of Horror movies and reality TV and then wonder why their spirituality is not at a more mature level. I even thought about not writing this blog post because I did not want to offend anyone or seem legalistic in what I’m saying.
The hard truth, however, is that we are pampered in the western church and seldom ever hear a call to pick up our cross and carry it. We are more often encouraged to put our money in the collection plate, rush home and wait for God’s blessing and work hard at encouraging others to come to “our” church. I remember the motivation for tithing when I first became a Christian and it was based around the idea that if you give your ten percent to God He will bless you in return. Really! That is the motivation for giving? Maybe, we should give because we wish to be a blessing and our money may help ease the suffering of others.
Persecution is coming to America and it is already banging on the door. President Obama has already made a speech in which he alluded to the fact that we are going to have to compromise our religious beliefs for the good of humanity under the need for a new globalization. That should be a wake up call to all of us.
Back to my question, how will we stand up against real consequence loaded persecution when we are so prone to compromise in the little things in our lives? That is a tough question for me and if you are anything like me then it is probably a tough question for you as well.
Before you dismiss this blog as alarmist read 2 Timothy 3 one more time:
1“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
4 Traitors, heady, high minded , lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
6 For of this sort are they, which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,
7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.
9 But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.
10 But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience,
11 Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the, Lord delivered me.
12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
14 But continue thou in the things, which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;
15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
Next post we will pick up on part two of the authenticity of the Bible.