The Cost for Sacrifice and the Reason We Must Do So
Have you ever encountered a situation in which you felt the stakes were too high? Did you think it was better to step aside instead of facing it head on? What if instead you did face it and what if it cost you everything to do so? Would you be willing to step up?
One can never truly say until that very example comes upon them and even then, legs do wobble and refuse to stand. However, there are those few that do not hesitate and risk it all for the right cause. This is what we are asked to do as Christians.
Today’s blog is looking at persecution in the world and on our doorstep. First, what exactly does persecution mean? Under the umbrella of hostility, we have many definitions of what qualifies as persecution. It is the hostile environment or ill-treatment of others based on race, politics or religious beliefs. It can be veiled as oppression, victimization, abuse, discrimination and mistreatment (Merriam-Webster). The focus today however, is persecution against the Christian.
I wanted to understand the depth of this better, so I searched for the most current watch list of where Christians are being persecuted today. The top ten countries are North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, Eritrea (bordered by Sudan), Libya, Iraq, Yemen and Iran. What most of these countries have in common is that they are under Islamic extremism.
Here are some alarming statistics to keep in mind. According to Christianity Today (in the article “Where It’s Most Dangerous to Follow Jesus” by Sarah Eekhoff-Zylstra 2018), 215 million Christians experience persecution in which Christianity is outlawed or forbidden; thus, punishable by the government. Out of the ten countries Pakistan has the most violent history with church attacks, abductions and forced marriages. Per Open Doors who provide the Watch List, this Islamic extremism is the driving force of persecution in 35 out of the 50 countries on the list. Women are raped, sexually harassed, or forced into marriage under threat of death due to their Christian faith.
It is not just Muslim countries but according to Open Doors, the next forefront of future persecution is within Radical Hinduism and Indian nationalism, which will increase the levels of instability that Christians face.
It is a way of life for many countries and it is coming our way soon enough. Once again according to Christianity Today (in the article “Does the United States Belong on the Persecution List?” by Sarah Eekhoff-Zylstra 2017) domestically, we face an increase of media attacks and more of a legal challenge regarding our religious rights. However, keep in mind that snowballs may start small, but they do tend to get larger the faster they roll down the hill. An avalanche is coming to our country. Right now, it comes to us in the form of lawsuits (such as the baker charged for not making a wedding cake for a same-sex couple), constant media attacks, and the implementation of new regulations such as referendums for teaching LGBTQ history in our public schools or complying to proposed/suggested bathroom alternatives for transgenders. It can and will get worse as political parties have hidden agendas thinly disguised to implement programs or laws with the said assumption of being politically correct or maintaining set standards by being innovative and progressive, so we can compete with other countries and keep our status quo as a superpower.
We have already taken God out of the schools and our future is threatened when someone can plot to take God out of the church by having pastors/clergy submit their sermons for review. Regarding our religious freedom, it is being pushed toward private expression per Jeff King, the President of International Christian Concern (in the article “Does the United States Belong on the Persecution List?” by Sarah Eekhoff-Zylstra 2017). In short, we are falling apart, and I ask, what are we to do, how are we to stand, and is there a remedy for all of this?
Yes, is the answer I would like to address today. We have been forewarned by Jesus in John 15:18 and 1 John 3:13, that we as Christians, will suffer persecution because of hate.
“If the world hates you, know that it hated me before it hated you.”
“Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.”
The apostles have warned us of this as well. In 1 Peter 4:12-14 we learn this from Peter, but we also are given the answer as how to deal with this hatred. We also see this warning in 2 Timothy 3:12.
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you. But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s suffering; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you, on their part he is evil spoken of, but on ye part he is glorified.”
“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
How are we to combat hate? We love instead as Matthew 5:44 and Romans 8:35 teach us. Not only love but give all the glory to God as 1 Peter 4:16 instructs us to do. Paul even tells us to rejoice during our fiery trials in 2 Corinthians 12:10 and again Peter tells us in 1 Peter 3:17 it is more important to do God’s will then to fight evil with evil. This gives us hope and strength to continue down the path of righteousness.
“But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”
“Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.”
“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then am I strong.”
“For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well-doing, than for evil doing.”
Persecution is bound to stir up division, but instead of fighting, we need to seek ways to be unified; thus, cohesive.
We are commanded in 1 Corinthians 1:10 that there be no division between Christians, we are instructed in Colossians 3:13-14 to be forgiving of one another, we have the glue named Jesus Christ within us to strengthen us per John 17:23 and Ephesians 4:13, and only then can we recognize the blessing of unity in Psalm 133:1.
“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”
“Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man has a quarrel against any, even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”
“I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.”
“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”
“Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”
It is however, more than just unity. We need to also show compassion to all regardless of the injustice done to us. We are called to be compassionate in Ephesians 4:32, instructed how to be the salt of the earth in Colossians 3:12-13, taught that we must bear one another in Galatians 6:2, be peacemakers to our enemies in Romans 12:20, and as God has been merciful to us, to show mercy to others in Lamentations 3:22-23.
“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”
“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.”
“Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in doing so thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head.”
“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.”
We cannot and should not stop there. We need to now gather all our courage and stand up for those in need of defense. This is the hardest part, but it is also the most necessary. In the Bible we are reminded multiple times of why we are to look after those less fortunate than us.
The Old Testament lends us wisdom in Psalm 82:3, Isaiah 1:17 and Proverbs 31:8-9 to show our purpose, our gifts are identified in order to be used effectively in Galatians 5:22-25, the honor and blessing of following this request is invoked in Psalm 1:1, the importance of working together and standing up is pointed out in Romans 12:16 and Ephesians 4:16, and ultimately that there are consequences when we fail to follow this wisdom in Ecclesiastes 4:10. Again, in 1 Peter 3:8, the necessity of compassion being shown to all is stressed.
“Defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy.”
“Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.”
“Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.”
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”
“Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.”
“From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
“For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow, but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.”
“Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous.”
Our excuse not to act or stand up for others, may or may not surprise you. Few like to get involved and more likely are prone to being apathetic.
As I just mentioned there are consequences when we decide not to do anything and let someone else either take the reins or the victim suffer on his or her own.
God wants us to act and as Proverbs 17:5 points out, He will punish us for refusing to do so.
“Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker, and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.”
We are forewarned about our desires to live for ourselves only in Ephesians 4:19, to hear only what we want to hear in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, reminded in James 4:17 our failure to do what we know is right is a sin, our apathy for others can lead to our prayers not being heard in Proverbs 21:13, and in 1 John 3:17-18, our insistence to not address or meet the needs of others by either deed or action, thus, begs the question if God even dwells within us.
“Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.”
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
“Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.”
“But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and truth.”
We all deserve to have a voice. We also deserve to know someone is out there who cares for us and is willing to take a risk for us. We have been called to this by God. We need to search for avenues to find answers to these injustices. Most importantly, pray for the persecuted and pray for their adversaries. Pray for comfort for the persecuted and pray for mercy from those who wish to do harm to them. We have an open line to call on God anytime and we must do so.
Samaritan’s Purse is one of the many ministries that have outreach programs to other countries of which this problem is extremely high. They focus on sharing the word and growing the church, by assisting the refugees terrorized by ISIS, by training people to be missionaries and help the church stand. We too can get involved as volunteers by being advocates who raise awareness of this issue, we also can write letters of encouragement to those being persecuted in the church, we can donate financial resources, food and ministry materials; thus, making a dent in this huge problem. When we seek to find a solution, opportunities will arise. Other ministries to research and contact are Open Doors, Voice of the Martyrs, Prison Alert, Barnabas Aid, I Commit to Pray and are good places to start.
Are you up for the challenge? Do you see a light shining down and encouraging you to step up and take a risk? I pray so. We need to look out for one another and love the way Jesus taught us to. There will never be a better example for us to follow than Him! Isn’t it worth it? I believe it is. God bless.