As we sit at our computers and complain that we are going through “hard times”. suffering from the effects of the recession, the possibility of job loss (if we haven’t lost our job already), and the high cost of food and gas, in reality we are just a bunch of whiners. Still here in America we are the most blessed with the fortunes of low costs in comparison to other nations and we still have more food per capita than any other country in the world. We more importantly have a freedom of religion that is still the bench mark for the rest of the world. Even as we complain about the secular and anti god movement to restrict public displays of our faith, we still enjoy the right to worship were and how we please.
The real struggle is there are places with no food all, no jobs, no future. And because the “rich” nations are held synonymous with “The West” and the West is “Christian”, and add to the fact that most Christian Churches do not run around armed to the teeth, Christians have become targets of their poverty and suffering. Churches, schools , orphanages and health clinics are targets of their frustration. While we sit in our comfortable homes watching wide screen PPV in HD with surround sound, while we drive our SUVs to the mall to buy the latest IPODs, blackberries and Blu Ray discs, poor hungry people are being led to believe that it is the fault of greedy Christians that live decadent lives. They have nothing and because “Christians” want to change the way they have lived for hundreds of years, change is for the worst and to them, disaster. they are being told that “Christians” want to keep them impoverished and enslaved.
Many places want the return to the old ways before the West came and changed the way of life for them. Some countries argue that all religion is dangerous to the will of the government and a threat to the power they hold over the will of the people. And because in most cases, Christians are non-violent, they become the first target. While in some places, thugs and criminals have claimed to be “christian” just to get power for themselves and have been more cruel than the rest. In all these cases the real followers of Jesus have become victims.
We are facing hard times in the Christian World but this is nothing new. In some countries that have in the past been friendly toward Christians, there are new conflicts. Countries that have broken the yoke of oppression from the former Soviet Union, in trying to protect themselves from Militant extremism are putting limits on religious expression that in turn, works against Christians as well. While it may seem right to restrict Fundamental Islamics or cults that worship evil, it could and will backfire and limit Christian expression as well.
That is why we who live in the “Free World” must guard against religious restrictions in our government as well as civic intrusions into our freedom to worship. It is a strange paradox that in order to protect the right to spread the Word of God, we must also protect the right of others to spread their beliefs and strive to protect even those who wish to shut out Christ, such as many Islamic sect wish. To spread the Good News of the Christ Salvation, we must allow the spread of Islam, Hindu, Mormonism and other faiths that also seek freedom. As we are directed to share the Word of God, we evangelize and do good (Godly) works for the betterment of others. We build more than churches, we create schools, clinics, orphanages and dig wells, purify water sources, eradicate disease or at least treat them. We help farmers grow crops and teach people how to work where they never worked before. And all the while we improve the quality of life of others even if they do not embrace Christ. Yet this is considered to be a threat to those in power, even if it is just locally. The control of the despot and the warlords are challenged by education, and free will. Bringing Christ into a community does both. Those who oppose change and growth, will do what ever they can to destroy the Gospel.
As we are enjoying our lives in our “safe” countries, we must never forget that the rest of the world is under persecution. Just as Hitler started with the Jews and progressed to every other faith that might interfere with his cruelty, it can happen anywhere and is in many places. It may not be on the grand scale that he used but it is still happening around the world.
Daniel spoke of them saying, “And the king shall do as he wills. He will exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods. He shall prosper until the indignation is accomplished.” (Daniel 11:36) Yet we are still corrupted by our vain and selfish desires. We ignore the powers that rob and destroy the people of their will. Our news agencies fail to report the attacks on people of faith and the imprisonment of church leaders throughout the world. “And the wise among the people shall make many understand, though for some days they shall stumble by sword and flame, by captivity and plunder. When they stumble, they shall receive a little help. … and some of the wise shall stumble , so that they may be refined, purified and made white, until the time of the end, for it still awaits the appointed time.” Daniel 11:33-35) “…But the people who know God shall stand firm and take action.” (Daniel 11:32)
To think that the persecution of Christians is isolated and infrequent is to be living in a dream. Jesus warned of this. To His followers He told them to prepare to suffer. “Truly I say to you , there is no one who has left the house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or lands, for my sake and for the Gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30) “And then he (Jesus) said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilence. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my sake. THIS WILL BE YOUR OPPORTUNITY TO BEAR WITNESS.'” (Luke 21:10-13)
While some will say that these are the signs of the end days, I beleive that they are only a warning that throughout history, we will face periods of persecutions. The warning in Mark says that we will have persecutions in the end days but it was to prepare the people for the persecutions by first the Jewish leaders and then the Romans. As age to age has come and gone, persecutions have been a constant threat to the True Faith of the followers of Christ. Trials and persecutions come with the frequency of tides. Every generation has faced some form of persecution. Christians will face persecution because of the desire of those who have power fear the loss of it or because those seeking power over others use it as a tool to destroy the will of others to gain power.
I will be honest in saying that throughout history, “Christians” were guilty of being the persecutors. Many wars through the ages were fought under the pretence of forcing others to become “Christian” or to deny people the right to worship Chirst in the manner they sought. Most of the wars in Europe during the Middle Ages were fought under this pretence. In reality, those in power used the Church as an excuse to gain power over others. It had nothing to do with protecting Christians or the Faith. From the stoning of Stephen in the first century to the burning of orphanages in India last year, Christians who want nothing more than to share the Good News of Christ and to bring Peace and the Harmony of God’s Love to others will continue to face opposition.
Even in the Middle East, as it is now called – in my youth it was the Near East, the problem is not so much that they are against Jesus as it is an attack against the Western influence intruding in their lands. They look at the Jews not as the people who have an ancient right to live in the “Promised Land” but as European Invaders who have stolen the land that they consider historically theirs. The land, culture, history and the way of life in “Palestine” has remained basicly unchanged for hundreds of years. They precieve the Jews as Western Europeans, not as Children of Abraham. For all the rhetoric about keeping Islam pure, that is not a reality. They don’t like each other very much at all. If they did not have the common hate of the Western influence and the Zionist Movement of the European Jews to unite them, they would just as soon kill each other as not. Of course this is not true in many areas of the Islamic world but in Palestine it is evident. And because the Jews are “Western” and the West is Christian, if falls right in place that Christians are also invaders. Even though Christians have lived in the Arab Nations ever since the first century, it does not matter, they are still “outsiders” and have no place in Arab Nations. Because America is the strongest power in the West, they are also a target of this mentality. Because America wants to force the world to live as we do, we have become a target of their hate, and because America is a “Christian Nation” that fuels the hate of Christians.
But as bad as it may seem, that is not were the real persecutions are taking place. The battle to remain faithful, to withstand untold threat is in the Far East and in Africa because in those lands Christians fight against the corruption and evil that plagues the people who live there. The areas that the greatest persecutions are taking place are in the sub continent of India and throughout the troubles lands throughout Africa. From the trouble last year in Orissa, Manipoor and Kandhanal, to worship restrictions in Kazakhstan against Islam that has spilled over to the Baptist and other protestant faiths. In Africa, 400 Christians were killed during a church service in Kampala Uganda. Not to forget that “registered” pastors in China are held under arrest without charges in China and Vietnam. Also this past year, a Christian orphanage was bombed by the SLAF in Sri Lanka, Malay language Bible and News letters are considered as perverse in Malaysia and still unpublished. There are still church burnings in Bangladesh and death threats to Pastors in Pakistan. Tajikistan has drafted a new law that will prevent militant Islamic groups from building centers in that country but it is worded in a manner that would enable the country from allowing new Churches to build leaving only Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches to spread the Gospel. To read about these incidents and others go to “Persecution.org”.(listed under my freinds)
This year pray for the persecuted churches throughout the world. Direct your efforts of concern for the mission field because if we can not sustain the missions, our own freedoms will be weakened. Let the leaders of the free world know that the efforts of Christians around the world are just as much victims of terror as are the civilians and tourists that make headlines. And I want to close with this note; not all Islamic Nations are shutting out Christians. Some such as Bahrain on the Arabic Coast are open to Christians, so pray that their understanding spreads to other Arab Nations. To the churches under attack I add the words of Paul to his young Churches; “We proudly tell God’s other Churches about your endurance and faithfulness in all the persecution and hardships you are suffering and God will use this persecution to show His justice and to make you worthy of His Kingdom, for which you are suffering.” (2 Thes. 1:4-5)