American Christians Need To Get A Handle On What Persecution Really Is

wonka

The past couple of weeks, I’ve been making a “defense” for Christmas because several people I know were going off on the holiday season.  This has been due to the actual date of Christ’s birth, pagan origins, or consumerism.

I stated in my message last Sunday that regardless of how “Christmas” started, it’s not going anywhere.  We don’t have to cower in Christian bunkers but rather look at it as a time to remember God’s awesome gift to us in the Messiah’s birth.  It’s also a freebie for the Church:  Christ is all over the place in decorations, songs, cards, programs.  This is an open door to talk about faith.   Now apparently, there’s been another media uproar due to some comments from a fellow Christian.

It’s not about OUR rights.
“Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God” (Philippians 2:5-6).  We are here as servants, not rulers.  As far as I know, we’ve surrendered all earthly privilege for the sake of following Christ (Luke 9:23-24).  I remember phrases like “turn the other cheek, walk an extra mile, give up your cloak and your tunic.”

Partner freedom with discretion.
While we are guaranteed certain unalienable rights, that doesn’t mean we should abuse them.  We don’t have to say everything or express all of our views.  Trust me, the people in my life do not want to know everything that passes through my mind, particularly my opinion.  It’s not about being politically correct but being Christlike:  kindness, generosity, patience, compassion, and respect.  He didn’t strip people of dignity, worth, or value, nor did he marginalize or demean them…well, except the religious brute squad.

We focus more on sidetrack issues and debates rather than communicating Christ’s unconditional love.  Our words carry so much power.  While we might think in our own minds that we’re not being judgmental, we must for a moment imagine how we’re being interpreted.  We’re to be the salt of the earth, but remember that the salt that flavors can also burn open wounds (Matthew 5:13).  Just because we can say it doesn’t mean we should (James 3:1-6).

Reactions on social media.
Our reactions keep the issues alive and only serve to widen the gap between various communities.  We’re not here to be divisive but to be agents of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:20).  I’m speaking on a volatile topic at a conference in January and I was informed today that it’s to help people gear up to “win the culture wars.”  Ummm…no.  I’m here to win…people.

Persecution?!!?
“Then people will arrest you, hand you over to be hurt, and kill you. They will hate you because you believe in me” (Matthew 24:9).  Seriously?  I have NEVER been persecuted in my life.  Challenged, opposed, mocked, ridiculed…yes.  But not according to Jesus’ definition.

  • In 60 countries it is illegal to preach the Gospel, gather for worship, possess a Bible, or acknowledge Jesus as Lord
  • 200 million live in daily fear of secret police, state repression, discrimination, death.  This is  2/3 of the U.S. population, 60% of them are children.
  • More have died for Christ in last century (110 years) than the first 1900 years combined, averaging about 170,000 per year.
  • Persecution is rampant in Southeast Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa.

If  we’re going to get indignant about persecution, let it begin here, and let it DRIVE US TO PRAY for our brothers and sisters, not for our rights to place Nativity scenes in public:

  • Let’s pray for Saeed Abedini who has been imprisoned for over a year and has now been transferred to the most brutal Iranian prison.  He has been beaten, tortured, separated from his family…and yet continues to minister faithfully.  If he had access to the internet, his status would probably say: “Pray for my family, pray for my persecutors, and pray that God would be glorified.”  #justsayin
  • Let’s pray for the Christians being slaughtered in Nigeria, Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, etc.
  • Let’s pray that the Gospel would continue to spread through the lives of courageous, humble, and obedient Christ followers all over the world.

Am I a spiritual wimp?
“You give them one inch they’ll take a mile.”  Newsflash:  It’s in the script.  It’s going to happen.  Am I saying let people walk all over me?  Scorn me?  Accuse me?  Well, my first response is why not?  Jesus did (Isaiah 53:7).  He didn’t defend Himself much less Tweet about it.  It probably takes more courage and strength to practice self-restraint and self-control, and not retaliate.  Just a thought:  we’re not here to win debates and arguments, nor are we here to be right.

They’ll know we are Christians by our…?
It’s Christmas.  Let’s showcase Jesus.  #whetheritsreallyHisbirthdayornot

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