A Supreme Court decision. A punchline on my favorite sitcom. The department store employee that cheerfully says, “Happy Holidays!” With each law passed, with each Supreme Court decision that’s made, and with each eye-catching headline on the local news station, American Christians are facing a country that is changing in values and institutionally making decisions for its citizens as to what is upright and moral.
As a 23-year old student attending a biblical institution, it’s no sweat for me to look at the news and experiences of my every day life here in America and decidedly chalk it up to “religious persecution.”
But here’s the thing: someone having a different opinion than me and buying a greeting card with a different inscription based on that opinion is by no means religious persecution. Our culture—myself included—has perpetuated lies about the state of the persecuted church. If we’re going to pursue holiness as a Church, we’ve got to clear them up.
1. REAL PERSECUTION DOESN’T EXIST.
Sitting in a Starbucks in the middle of the United States, sipping on a lukewarm beverage that cost half-an-hour’s work, I find absolutely no difficulty in being ignorant to the things happening outside these walls, outside this state, outside this country. If you’re anything like me, let me wreck the reality you’re living in (while also probably ruining the overpriced drink in your hand):
2. THERE’S NO HOPE TO BE FOUND.
Once it has become evident that Christian persecution is a reality, it’s easy for our flesh to be discouraged, losing any sight of hope—even if just for a moment. With no hope comes discouragement, and with discouragement comes apathy and prayerlessness. When we hear of the millions of Christians being slaughtered and rape, it’s easy to fall into despair.
so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. – Hebrews 6:18-20
Our hope is found in Christ. He has entered as a forerunner–as the fulfillment of God’s promise from the start. Over and over again, since the very beginning of time, we can see that God hears His people. The Hebrew men and women who unjustly found themselves in bondage cried out for deliverance, and their God came through—even in their unfaithfulness. God has kept every promise He’s ever made, and those promises align with every aspect of His character: His love, His comfort, His provision, His justice. God is faithful and sovereign unchanging. Our hope rests in Him and the salvation and grace He’s freely given to us through His Son’s blood on the cross.
3. IT DOESN’T INVOLVE ME.
I’m convinced this is one of the most dangerous lies that we can believe. It’s clear that it is straight from the mouth of the father of lies, because it’s entirely antithetical to the truth found in Scripture.
so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. -1 Corinthians 12:26
4. IT’S JUST PART OF GOD’S PLAN.
Here’s where it gets a little trickier. We know that both James and Paul have called believers to rejoice when suffering comes around (James 1:2-4, Romans 5:3-5). Note: when suffering comes around. It’s inevitable—and it’s going to look differently for everybody. The suffering I experience in the heartland of America is vastly different from the suffering the children in an orphanage in Uganda will experience. Regardless of specific circumstance, God is completely sovereign over our lives and His plan for believers is always for His good (Romans 8:28).
That said, we aren’t called to stand around and say, “Yeah go get ‘em!! You’ve got this, my dude!” No, the Bible is very clear on how we are to react in the midst of persecution. When Peter was tossed into prison, the church in early Jerusalem fervently prayed to God for his sake. The Lord miraculously freed Peter from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting to happen. (Acts 12:1-19)
The author of Hebrews also gives us specific instructions as to how how to respond to the persecution happening to our brothers and sisters around the world:
“Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.” Hebrews 13:3
Jesus made things pretty clear as well:
“‘By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.’” John 13:35
We are one in Christ. We are instructed to love each other well and to bring our prayers and supplications to God, who is on the throne. He is sovereign and in control and He doesn’t need us. However, in pursuit of holiness, we’ve got to show up for our brothers and sisters around the world.
5. I CAN’T HELP.
That’s just blatantly not true. “You’ve got to eat the elephant one bite at a time.” My mom used to say that when things seemed overwhelmingly unconquerable. I think it applies here. We aren’t going to eradicate persecution of the Church in it’s entirety in one fell swoop. However. There are small bites we as a church can take to help the entire body find relief amidst oppression.
It’s time that we walk in truth when it comes to Christian persecution, and that we respond appropriately and earnestly.
Megan Richardson is a graduate of Belmont University and staff writer for Kingdom Tribe Press.