Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Persecution in the "World" and in America

I think it is important to see that persecution of Christians includes insults and slander, and not just imprisonment or death. Jesus said, "“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" (Mat. 5:10-12)

Because we don't see that words are part of persecution, many American Christians also fail to see that living in this world (defined as the inhabitants of the earth) there will always be the world (defined as human society in rebellion against God and his Son). The world in this latter sense will always be with us and will always oppose Jesus Christ and his gospel, until his return. In fact, the gospel is a call to come out of this dark, rebellious world to enter into the glorious kingdom of blessing, light, and life, that is God's kingdom.

Especially in the apostle John's writings we run into this more sinister sense of the word, world. For example, Jesus speaks of the world's irrational hatred of him and his disciples in these words:

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’

One conclusion we should draw from this is that the attempt to win over the world by compromise is foolhardy. While we are called to love the world (its inhabitants) true Christians will never be popular with the world (the rebellious system). We should pray for the world. We should seek to bless the world through good deeds. We should seek to bless the world through telling the gospel. But we must also hate the world's rebellious ways, and not be naive about the world's nature. For the world is characterized by a pride that rejects God's word, seeks to live independently of the One on whom we depend for life and breath, and covets God's gifts more than the Giver of those gifts.

So let's move away from our naivete about America and the world. Let's realize we are in a spiritual conflict, and let's use the weapons of prayer, the word, and loving relationships in this conflict for precious souls that will perish apart from receiving Jesus Christ and his gospel message.

Below is a story about one place where the persecution is more intense. It comes from the Persecution Blog. --Bill

Muslim rule on isles east of Africa effectively criminalizes faith in Christ.

ZANZIBAR, Tanzania, Dec. 5 (Compass Direct News) – Christians on the predominantly Muslim islands of Pemba and the Comoros archipelago are beaten, detained and banished for their faith, according to church leaders who travel regularly to the Indian Ocean isles off the east coast of Africa. These violations of religious freedom, the church leaders said, threaten the survival of Christianity on Pemba and the Comoros, with fewer than 300 Christians in a combined population of 1.1 million people. Leaving Islam for Christianity accounts for most of the harm done to Christians, and this year saw an increase in such abuse as already-strained relations between the two communities deteriorated after the conversion in August of Sheikh Hijah Mohammed, leader of a key mosque in Chake-Chake, capital of Pemba. A Christian from the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar who recently visited the Comoros said those suspected to have converted from Islam to Christianity face travel restrictions and confiscation of travel documents. In the early part of this year, authorities expelled a missionary from the Comoros when they discovered he was conducting Friday prayer meetings. “The police broke into the prayer meeting, ransacked the house and found the Bibles which we had hidden before arresting us,” said a source who requested anonymity. “We were detained for three months.”

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