Believe it or not, this post about how Christians respond to persecution did actually begin as part of 30 Days of Thanksgiving! The original title was “What I Am Most Thankful For” because I truly want you to know. Read on to find out what I am most thankful for and how it affects how I think Christians should respond to a society that wants to silence them.
Today, I have countless reasons to be thankful.
My grandmother is at her home, living and breathing. A week ago, doctors thought she wouldn’t live through the night.
My father-in-law’s heart procedure this morning went well.
Our children are healthy, and y’all, they’re precious.
My husband is godly; he is kind.
I have a home. I have friends.
My family has food to eat.
I could go on for pages about the blessings I’ve been given, but I want to tell you about the most important one.
Life. Forgiveness. Grace. Holiness. Healing.
There are so many ways I could use to say it, but it all comes down to this:
I want you to know that because I’m finding that, in today’s world, it’s ok to talk about faith. We can share what we think about God. Increasingly, however, Jesus is becoming taboo.
That hit home to me recently because I was working on a guest post for another website when I noticed something. After a few rounds of editing and revision, I realized that every mention of Christ had been removed. It was subtle at first, but by the end, he was gone. God was still there because, I suppose, without Christ I could have been referring to any god, not just the one I worship.
So, I put Jesus back in and hit “send.”
Because here’s the thing: I write from a Christian perspective. That’s not possible without Christ.
He is the source of my hope. He is the foundation of my faith.
I will write about him. After all, Jesus is the Most Important Thing I Can Blog About.
I will join Paul in saying, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.” (2 Corinthians 2:14)
But I won’t be surprised when He is rejected or my faith is shunned.
After all, Paul goes on to say that “we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life.” (verse 15)
Some people will always feel:
- judged by the one who said to the woman caught in sin, “I don’t judge you.”
- hated by the one who commanded us to “love our enemies.”
- condemned by the one who forgave the people who killed him…as they were doing it.
It makes no sense to me, but I believe it comes down to this:
Jesus gives grace, but He leaves no other alternative.
He says, “I am THE way, THE truth, THE life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
In our world, we want “A way, A truth, A life.” We want to find our own way, decide our own truths. Jesus doesn’t give us that option.
And, y’all, that one of the reasons I’m so thankful for him.
Because left to my own devices, I choose:
- anger over patience
- grudges over grace
- lies over truth.
Like Paul, even when I want to do things right, I get them wrong. (Romans 7:14-24)
“But thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25)
How should Christians respond to a society that wants to silence them?
The question is: how should Christians respond in a culture that wants to erase Christ? To society that wants to silence them? And finally, how should Christians respond to persecution?
First, we need to realize that Jesus knew the world hated him. The people of his day killed him, didn’t they? What’s more, he said the world would hate us, too.
Why do we act so surprised?
Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:18-20)
The thought of persecution can be pretty frightening. It’s so foreign to those of us here in America sometimes. We have lived free from it for so many years. Is it possible that the church in America has forgotten how to respond?
Thankfully, Jesus told his followers exactly what to do.
Do Not Fear
“Do not be afraid.” (Matthew 10:32)
Recently, I was teaching a group of kids about sharing Jesus even when we’re nervous or scared to do so. We talked about missionaries and believers in places where persecution is common. I encouraged them to share with someone, even if they are nervous.
Then I got an opportunity of my own.
I didn’t realize how anxious I would feel as I sent an email to an editor far away, explaining why I had to write the way I do, why I have to include Christ.
Like Paul, I had to ask a friend to pray “that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel…that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” (Ephesians 6:19)
Y’all, I have no desire to hit people over the head with a Bible, but I will not keep quiet about Christ.
Do Not Keep Quiet
When I lived in Kenya, I knew people who had experienced persecution. They’d been rejected by their families. They’d been threatened and attacked.
But they never stopped sharing Christ.
So why do we?
In his book The Insanity of God, Nik Ripken tells story after story of the persecuted church. It’s heartbreaking and inspiring but also very challenging because he writes that persecution always aims to silence the gospel. In effect, he says that if we don’t share the gospel, we do the work of persecutors for them. It doesn’t matter how Christians respond to persecution if they never preach the Gospel.
In today’s world, the only response Christians should have to a culture that wants to quiet them is to speak more loudly with love, “for Christ’s love compels us.” (Romans 5:14)
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” (Romans 5:18-20)
How can we be silent about such salvation?
If you have never read it, I really encourage you to read The Insanity of God. I couldn’t put it down. And not just because some of it was set in Kenya. The story of Nik Ripken and his family and the stories he shares of believers all over the world will convict, challenge and encourage you. I know it. It raises questions of how American Christians respond to persecution, as well as Christians in other parts of the world.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think about how Christians respond to persecution. Do you agree with me, or am I way off base? I don’t consider myself persecuted in any way, but this experience has really caused me to think about how Christians respond to persecution in general. Let’s discuss it!
Finally, be sure and share a link or two for this week’s Encouraging Word Wednesday linkup!