August 26, 2018

Clear and Present Danger #11: Persecution

Passage: 1 Peter 4:12-19

None of us, as far as I know, has ever experienced severe persecution for our faith. Perhaps we’ve experienced a little harassment, perhaps a little discomfort, or maybe some awkward feelings because of our commitment to Christ, but that’s about it. We have freedom of religion. Christianity is still the dominant faith in our country; most people claim to be Christians. Very few harass us or hinder us from reading our Bibles, praying, attending church, or even witnessing in most cases. We can live out the Christian faith freely and express our faith publicly. We experience virtually no persecution. For that, we should be very thankful.

But that could all change rather quickly.

According to recent studies, attacks on religious liberty in America are up by 166% over just the past 5 years. International Christian Concern, an agency that monitors religious persecution, has noted a rising hostility in America against Christians and a decline in religious liberty here. People in positions of privilege and power are increasingly hostile toward Christianity.

Americans are often guilty of ignoring world events, and that can be true of Christians as well. We may not even be aware that people like us are suffering intense persecution for the Christian faith in other parts of the world. In case you didn’t realize it, Christians are suffering terrible persecution in many places.

I recently read that 215 million people are persecuted for their Christian beliefs! One in 12 Christians experience persecution including death, rape, imprisonment, loss of property, forced marriage, separation from family and physical violence. Each month on average, 255 Christians are killed, 104 are abducted, 66 churches are attacked, and 180 Christian women are raped, sexually harassed or forced into unwanted marriage. Since 2005, 1 million Christians have been martyred.[1]

Some have estimated that more believers have died for their faith in Christ in [the 20th] century than in the early church era.[2]

We of course don’t assume that all of these are evangelical, born-again brethren. But they are professing believers in Christ. They identify as Christians just like we do. They believe many of the same things we do and try to live according to Jesus’ teaching just like we do. But unlike us, they are suffering incredible persecution for their beliefs.

How do we respond to the threat of persecution?

[1] Understanding the Threat

[2] Mal Couch, “Preparing for Persecution,” Conservative Theological Journal Volume 3, no. 9 (1999): 286.

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