For several years I have been hearing and reading lots of Christians, many of them leaders in churches, talk about the persecution that Christians are under in the United States and how it is going to get worse. In the last few days I have read and heard numerous doom and gloom scenarios about the future of persecution in the USA. Let me be clear from the outset, this drives me nuts. You would be hard pressed to find another country in the world where it is so easy to be a follower of Christ. I should know, I have been to more than 40 of them.
There are two main points I want to make. First, Christians in this country are NOT being persecuted. Second, if you are, PRAISE GOD! That’s wonderful!
As to the first point, it is without a doubt, that serious followers of Jesus face pushback, and opposition, and at times ridicule. There are often times when that ridicule is deserved, so I hardly would count that as persecution. Even still, the kind of pushback many Christians face in The United States does not rise anywhere even close to the level of any definition of persecution. If you want to see persecution, let me take you to some places I have been. Let’s go to China where pastors are regularly arrested and held in jail for undetermined amounts of time, while their churches get bulldozed, and their people arrested. Let me take you to Iran, where the church is growing faster than in just about any other country in the world, yet under one of the harshest regimes and life threatening persecutions. I could go on and on. You see, by comparison, it is a cake walk following Jesus in the USA. Yet, ironically, this is one of just a handful of countries in the world were the church is in decline.
Maybe it is not persecution that threatens the church so much as it is the fact that we have idolized personal comfort, physical safety, and financial security, above being loving witnesses to the glory of Jesus. How else do you explain that in a country where the constitution guarantees the freedom to worship, and practice our faith, and tell other people about Jesus, in a country with more Bibles than people, how is it in that country, the church is in decline? Yet in places with none of that and only facing hardship, the church flourishes and people are coming to faith in Jesus everyday?
The second point, to praise God of you are getting pushback and even persecution for your faith, simply comes from the words of Jesus…..
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:10-12
Jesus told his first followers that they are blessed when their lives so reflect who Jesus is that people persecute them and slander them. Those first Christians took that to heart. When they were arrested and beaten for preaching Jesus, they didn’t whine and complain and take someone to court. They walked away, “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name”. Acts 5:41.
You see, the life mission of a follower of Jesus doesn’t change because their environment makes it more difficult. It doesn’t matter who is in the White House, what executive orders they sign, who controls the Senate or the House of Representatives, or who gets nominated to the Supreme Court. The mission of the follower of Jesus remains to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, to love your neighbor, even your enemy, as yourself, and to go and make disciples of all ethnicities. Maybe if we focused more on that Great Commandment and Great Commission, we would have less time to whine about it being a little harder to be a Christian than it used to be.
If you are getting some serious heat for following Jesus, before you start screaming about persecution, it would be a good idea to ask if you have been loving your neighbor and your enemy as Jesus commands. Maybe they revile you and say all sorts of slanderous things about you, not because you are living like Jesus, but because you are being a jerk. In that case, it’s not persecution, it’s probably closer to justice.