There is no doubt that persecution against Christians exists. In a world with continuously increasing turmoil, ever-present feelings of disgust and hatred towards Christians abound. According to Christianity Today, “Every day, 13 Christians worldwide are killed because of their faith. Every day, 12 churches or Christian buildings are attacked. And every day, 12 Christians are unjustly arrested or imprisoned, and another 5 are abducted.” OpenDoorsUk shares the grievous statistics that “more than 360 million Christians worldwide suffer high levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith – that’s a staggering 1 in 7 believers.”
Christians do face persecution— badly. However, we are not alone.
Right now, as you go about your peaceful day, eating cereal and dropping your kids off at school, teenagers and women patrol the streets of villages in Northeast India, trying to protect their homes while the men literally wage war on battle front lines; Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, and other religious communities have been terrorized with torture, imprisonment, and various forms of abuse in China; young girls and women are being kidnapped and forced into marriages and conversion to Islam. Minorities of many different religions face persecution under various forms, such as bullying, harassment, and discrimination.
We like to think persecution towards us occurs because we are venerable saints burdened by unwarranted hatred— and, to some extent, that is correct. Jesus did tell us that the world would hate us because it hated Him.
However, it does not seem very untoward that people would continue to hold grudges against the Body which was supposed to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world— symbols of healing, hope, and goodness— instead infamously hiding in a shell or turning a blind or contemptuous eye towards those in need.
For those of us who do not actually deal with persecution on a personal basis, the idea of it is a distant, hazy image of frenzied crowds and beheadings that occurred hundreds of years ago or thousands of miles away. It is someone else’s problem. It is something that has not yet touched our world.
Why has it not touched our world?
The Bible instructs us to “weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15). God told us that a failure to help His brethren was a grave matter, equal to turning a blind eye to Him and resulting in the severing of our relationship with Him! (See Matthew 25:3-40). So why the inaction?
The Bible says,
“Arise; shine” (Is. 60:1); but we, like elementary school kids, decided to take that as just a suggestion, press the snooze button, and turn and go back to sleep.
The next verse accurately describes the world today, “For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, And deep darkness the people…” (Is. 60:2). Restrictions on religious freedom are growing around the world. Christianity Today informs: “309 million Christians (are) living in places with very high or extreme levels of persecution, up from 260 million in last year’s list.”
“Global Restrictions on Religion, a new study by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, finds that 64 nations – about one-third of the countries in the world – have high or very high restrictions on religion. But because some of the most restrictive countries are very populous, nearly 70 percent of the world’s 6.8 billion people live in countries with high restrictions on religion, the brunt of which often falls on religious minorities.”
And, yet, “But the Lord will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you,” the verse continues, offering hope.
“You might think the [list] is all about oppression. … But the [list] is really all about resilience,” stated David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, introducing the report released today.
“The numbers of God’s people who are suffering should mean the Church is dying—that Christians are keeping quiet, losing their faith, and turning away from one another,” he stated. “But that’s not what’s happening. Instead, in living color, we see the words of God recorded in the prophet Isaiah: ‘I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert’” (Isa. 43:19, ESV)
Presently, we are living in a world with increasing darkness, even if we are not the ones on the front lines of all the terrors going on.
Now is the time, before crises worsen, before the younger generations grow up not knowing God, before our problems outgrow us and defeat the Church that was meant to walk in victory. Now is the time for action, giving time, money, resources, and whatever help we can give. Now is the time for warfare, beginning to sow in prayer. Now is the time to grow up and stop pressing the snooze button.
Now is the time to help those who need it, even if they are “not one of us.” There’s too much segregation in the world for the Church to partake in. It is interesting when you think about it: the Bible says that we are to be the “light of the world,” not just the light of the Church or the light of your own people.
Imagine being wrecked at sea. You’re drifting in the dark, with a hundred thousand dangers all around. The waves could capsize you; your raft could break; sharks could attack; a storm could rage; lightning could kill you in an instant. You are surrounded by people, but you might as well be alone, because none of them have an answer either. In their own struggle and desperation, they cause more troubles than solutions. Then, you see a ship. You know this ship is supposed to be unsinkable. You will have protection, food, water, warm clothes, a comfortable bed, and people who will welcome and help you as much as you can. Excitedly, your eyes light up, and you wildly wave your hands. You glance around, knowing that you’ll be able to rescue the dying people around you as well once you get on that ship.
To your dismay, though, the people on board turn up their noses at you. You yell and call for them, wondering if there’s a mistake. The ship floats by; there’s plenty of room. You’ve heard that the Owner of the ship would love to save you. But you can’t see Him; you can see only the people who also had been rescued and brought on board. They continue to ignore and scoff at you— strange behavior, considering they were once where you are. Yet, they act as though they are somehow superior and don’t need to help. They don’t seem to care, apathetically and coldly staring at your plight and the plight of the millions around you. Your hope dims, and you heartbrokenly turn your back to the lights of the ship. It’s not for you. You don’t belong there, and you will never be saved. There are sharks circling you. They’re thirsty for your blood and will destroy you. But you almost embrace them even as they tear you apart before they kill you. Oh well. At least they don’t discriminate.
May God prevent that from being the story of lost souls searching but not receiving help from the Church.