Summary: Christians were persecuted by the Jews, then by the Romans, and by the Nazis and the Communists, and by fundamentalist Muslims and others today. Why should we in the West or US, Canada, Autsralia or New Zealand be excused from suffering for our faith?
Gospel reading: Luke 21: 5-19
May the words of my mouth .......
In the Gospels Jesus is recorded as saying some lovely things,
that we are loved, that we are forgiven, that we are his friends,
but in today's Gospel reading, his words are far from lovely.
"They will lay hands on you and persecute you";
"There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences"; and
"All men will hate you because of me".
God's people: the righteous Jews in OT times, and Christians since NT times,
have been picked on, messed about, arrested without cause, sacked,
thrown out of their houses, beaten, starved, and killed.
1000 years before Jesus, David in Psalm 119 verse 86 said:
"Help me, Lord, because men are persecuting me without cause".
Although we identify with David,
there is in fact a "cause", a reason, why we are persecuted and ill-treated.
It is because we are children of God, citizens of the Kingdom of Light,
and because of this, we are opposed, hated,
by the subjects of the devil, the ruler of the Kingdom of Darkness.
I just want to let you know, based on the Bible, on the words of Jesus,
that things are going to get worse.
But I also want to tell you, based on the Bible, on the words of Jesus,
that things are going to get better.
In the OT:
Abraham was persecuted by King Abimelech.
His nephew lot was persecuted by the homosexual inhabitants
of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Joseph was picked on by his brothers, and then by Potiphar's wife
because he would not have sex with her.
All the prophets were rejected and despised
because they proclaimed God's word.
Elijah was hounded by Jezebel the wicked wife of the weak king Ahab.
Jeremiah was thrown into a dried up well, and Daniel was put into a pit of lions.
In the NT:
Jesus was killed by the Romans on the orders of the Jewish high priests who refused to believe he was the Messiah.
Stephen was stoned to death because he preached Christ crucified.
Paul was nearly killed by Pharisees who had been his friends and colleagues before he became a Christian.
In the 1960's and 1970's we used to get mailings from Open Doors,
through which Brother Andrew kept us informed about the dreadful things
that were being done to Christians in Communist states such as the USSR, East Germany, Romania), China, and Albania (classified by President Hoxha as the world's first completely Atheistic state).
As a result of prayer, the Berlin Wall came down
and churches have been reopened throughout most of Eastern Europe.
Anne and I visited Prague and saw at least one church
that was being restored with public money.
At the present time, according to mailings received from the Barnabas Trust, Christians are being severely persecuted, and especially in states
which are predominantly Islamic, or what we tend to call Muslim.
Even though we practice toleration here and allow Muslims to build mosques, in most Muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan,
Christians are picked on, robbed, sacked, raped and even killed,
and the police and authorities do very little about it.
Read out some EXAMPLES from Christian Solidarity International, etc.
It is easy to give in to our natural feelings and want revenge
on those who hurt either us, or our Christian brothers and sisters.
The Bible does say; "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth",
but only the devil wins when we give in to our base and animalistic feelings and want to punch them, and kick them, and kill them,
for what they are doing to us or our fellow believers.
But this is not what Jesus wants.
Even as he was hanging, dying on the cross, he said "Father, forgive them".
In all honesty, I do not think I would have been able to say that.
The Book of Job teaches us that God permits the Devil so much freedom,
and permits so much sin and suffering,
as the price for giving us, and every other human being,
including Osama Bin Laden, free will,
and Jesus said in the Gospels of Matthew chapter 24
and in today's reading from Luke,
that the "End times" would see persecution of the elect to such an extent
that many would fall way.
The message of the Bible is that no matter how bad things are
for Christians in Islamic countries such as Pakistan,
and Communist countries such as North Korea,
and even in Western countries,
where everyone is supposed to have free speech,
except those who speak out against homosexuality or abortion,
things are going to get worse.
Our non-Christian neighbours, friends, and even our sons and daughters
will one day turn against us,
and think they are doing the right thing by persecuting us,