Meditation on “The Coming Present Persecution”
This month, our meditation has been a response to an e-mail, warning Christians who stand for their faith to be prepared for the now present persecution. In 2008, a call to Christians brought up a possible progression of the experience of persecution for us as Christians. Are we prepared, and... How will we respond?
Progression toward persecution
1) Ignoring/indifferent/shunning toward:
c) You’ve got your beliefs, and I’ve got mine
i) My god...
a) (Genuine interest: may not reflect persecution intent)
b) Word/logic gaming
c) Aggressive, to trip you up
d) Show YOUR weaknesses
f) Changing subject
g) Walking away
3) Verbal challenging
a) Loud voice
c) Lies about you
d) Ruined reputation among acquaintances
f) Ad hominem attacks
g) Emotional attacks
4) Physical attacks/abuse
a) Mob behavior*
b)Unfocused aggressive reaction*
c) Focused aggression*
d) Attack personal/corporate property:*
e) Attack person *
g) With weapon(s)*
iii) Rocks, etc.
iv) Vehicular attack
(* See below)
A moment of introspection: In 2008, I wrote a devotional suggesting that we need to consider how we might respond to being ignored by the world, or to experiencing physical attacks and abuse from the pagan world around us Christians, as persecution appeared on the horizon for us in this country. The expression, “That was then, and this is now” seems at once to deny the effect of the past on the present yet, even so, to acknowledge the progression from the past to the present—for the persecution of Christians (around the world and our prayers for the victims of persecution) has come to the shores of our country. We are now experiencing persecution that was in 2008 only foreseen and promised; it has come to us. Physical attacks* which heretofore had not happened to any extent now occur—encouraged by city, county, and state officials, as well as national congressional leaders. Yet did we ever expect to experience such aggressive persecution first hand? We were asked, in the original 2008 devotional to consider how we might respond to the progression of worldly attacks on persons of faith, coming to our own nation. In that year, I asked readers to view the following brief 3-minute video, in which the omen of persecution was spelled out:
In 2020, a mere 12 years later, the following video has announced the arrival of the presaged oppression. In this 7-minute video, Lamb-Lion Ministries explains that the terrible persecution of the American Church has just begun:
In today’s world, and in our land, the opponents of our Christian faith comprise a motley crew: islamists, communists, humanists, anarchists, nihilists, new age spiritualists, the Green Movement, et al. These groups have joined together as temporary allies seeking to destabilize and overthrow the government, and they are joined by persons who have been active in social justice efforts and have been absorbed into the frenzied mob. Jesus Christ’s words during His earthly ministry, ring increasingly true and timely: (John 15:20-25) “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’”
Today we see uncontrolled riots with local government heads and national congressional leaders acceding to, and being part of, the violence against police, against federal government officers, against churches, against Christian groups on and off campus, and more. Corporate or home-based church services, prayer services, singing hymns and saying sacred chants, and Bible studies; Christian summer camps, and more are shut down as being “unsafe”, while casinos, riots, grocery and merchandise retailers, restaurants, bars, etc., remain open or have been given permission to re-open. Christians are vocally debased and ridiculed. Though Christians may consider our opponents godless, they are not; God’s Word again speaks to our times: (John 16:2-4) “…Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.” Do the anti-Christ throngs believe in God? No! Yet they do believe in and follow their own gods: Islamists (Allah); Communists (the Communist ideology/state); Humanists (Self); Anarchists (Chaos); Nihilists (Nothing), New Age Spiritualists (the god within), the Green Movement (Gaia), etc. Each opposer believes in a god, yet not the same god as the others. Ignorance of God and Christ is the foundation of all religious persecution and intolerance.
George F. MacLeod (a Scottish soldier and clergyman, 1895-1991) was quoted as remarking, “The greatest criticism of the church today is that no one wants to persecute it: because there is nothing very much to persecute it about.” It seems though, today, as if the very existence of the church draws ire and hostility. Whether lukewarm or not, today, Christians are finding themselves confronted by an angry secular society intent on obliterating the Church in our country, and in many countries around the world. God’s Word instructs us believers to expect opposition. The experiences of our Christian brothers and sisters world-wide bear out the reality of the need for God’s instruction in present-day experience. Our faith will be tested. Our beliefs will be scorned and marginalized. Our security, if based on possessions or worldly assumptions and preparations, will be challenged, and we will learn that “It is better to take refuge in the Lord, than to trust in man.” (Psalm 118:8) God is more concerned about your response to a problem than he is about removing it, indeed those who bless God in their trials will be blest by God through their trials.
Someone recently told me that there is no way to know how we will respond when we are ourselves persecuted for our Christian beliefs. That may be true. Pastor Wurmbrand of the Voice of the Martyrs remarked before his death, that it makes no difference to desperately recite the 23rd Psalm while under persecution, torture, etc., unless we have developed a close walk and relationship with the Good Shepherd prior to such persecution. In John 15:20, Christ talked about the hatred that this world would have for us, when He asked us to “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” In the progression, above, it will be helpful to us to continue to develop responses to not only those ignoring us and the Good News--as we experience/encounter even greater resistance, for the sake of the Gospel and its spread. It will be useful to know how to respond to disingenuous questioning or verbal challenges similar to those delineated, above.
Consider, too, how we will respond to physical attacks and abuse from those opposed to Jesus Christ and His gospel message; in those situations, how do we carry our own crosses as Christ carried His? Shall we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us? (Matthew 5:44) Shall we do good to those who hate us? Shall we bless those who curse us and pray for those who abuse us? (Luke 6:28) If one strikes us on one cheek, shall we offer the other also? (Luke 6:29) Shall we forgive our attackers? (Matthew 6:14-15) These are at least part of what is meant when we are called to “count the cost’ (Luke 14:25-33). For many, and increasingly for us (especially as we live in these end times), there is a cost involved in following Jesus. What will be the cost for us? In 2020 and beyond, what is the cost for us? Expect persecution. Expect Immanuel, as the valley of the shadow of death takes form and stretches out before us; fear no evil, for the Good Shepherd is with us. (Psalm 23:4; Luke 12:4-5) Through it all, may we believers learn to trust in Jesus; determine to trust in God; and purpose to know the Holy Scriptures and to depend on His Word.