Summary: To be a follower of Christ is almost certain to be costly. Many turn from following Christ because they fear what it may cost. They are willing to be religious, but hesitate to embrace discipleship. We are called to embrace dangerous discipleship.

“When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So, the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.” [1]

Ruth faced an impossible situation. Her husband threw her out of their home. He took the children, then took her to court. Her crime? She accepted Christ! Her story is just one of multiplied thousands that take place each year. Her story is mute, though effective, evidence that discipleship is dangerous.

As David Curry, CDO of Open Doors USA, began the press conference as he prepared to release the 2018 World Watch List that details the fifty most dangerous countries for Christians, he said, “Today, I’m dedicating this moment … to a 47-year-old nun who, like Mother Theresa, works with the poorest of the poor in India.” Curry continued by describing how she has been forced to carry out her ministry in the Name of Christ despite threats on her life from Hindu extremists. Curry then detailed how “two Hindu extremists came to her medical clinic, attacked her, raped her, drugged her and left her unconscious, tied to a bed. When the police came to investigate, they began to systematically destroy evidence and had the shoddiest of investigative processes.”

Then Curry appended this dire statement, “That’s what justice [for Christians] is like in India today.” [2]

Discipleship is dangerous—it may cost your livelihood, your welfare, your reputation or even your life. Perhaps that doesn’t hold true in Canada, yet; but it certainty is true throughout our world that being a disciple of the Lord Christ can be dangerous. Scholars estimate that seventy million (70,000,000) Christians have been martyred since New Testament times. What is surprising, and no doubt frightening, is that the same research estimates that over half of these saints were martyred in the last century. About one hundred thousand (100,000) Christians are martyred each year. A quick calculation leads to the conclusion that eleven (11) Christians have been killed every hour for the past ten years—and the killings continue. [3]

To be certain, some secular organisations question these numbers, arguing that many of these included in the reports were killed during the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. [4] Whatever the actual numbers may be, there is no question but that the persecution of Christians is increasing throughout the world, and that persecution is growing rapidly. Open Doors reports that persecution of Christians reached a new peak in 2015, the latest year of their report. [5] Persecution does not always result in death; persecution may result in loss of income, destruction of property, terrorism of Christian populations, physical injury or incarceration.

Todd Johnson, who provided some of the initial studies on recent Christian martyrdom, acknowledges that though many deaths may not meet the traditional criterion for martyrdom (killing for exclusively religious motives), it is evident that the majority of the deaths occurred in what he calls a “situation of witness.” [6] These are killings that occur not only for doctrinal beliefs, but they are carried out because of the values and humanitarian stances that doctrine inspires. While the majority of the recently reported martyrdoms occur in Muslim nations, Hindu extremism accounts for an increasing number of deaths. “In August, 2008, hostility toward the Christian ‘other’ exploded in Kandhamal, leaving roughly 100 people dead, thousands injured, 300 churches and 6,000 homes destroyed, and 50,000 people displaced, many of them forced to hide in nearby forests where more died of hunger and snakebites.” [7]

Recent headlines from one magazine include: “Pope Francis Quiet on Catholic Persecution of Protestants in Mexico,” “A Ransom for Many: ISIS Releases Last of 230 Assyrian Christian Hostages,” “Six Reasons Why ISIS Attacks on Christians Should be Declared Genocide,” “Suicide Bomber Kills More Than 70 as Taliban Targets Christians Celebrating Easter at Pakistan Park,” “Genocide Up Close and Personal,” “After Pastor’s Wife Buried Alive, Chinese Church Wins Land Battle,” “Christian Refugees in Germany Report High Levels of Religious Violence.” [8] And the headlines continue to this day: “Christian Governor of Jakarta Jailed, Found Guilty of Blasphemy,” “Pakistan Convicts 42 Christians of Terrorism After Acquitting More Than 100 Muslims,” “China Tells Christians to Replace Images of Jesus with Communist President,” “Pakistani Christians Bury 11 After ISIS Attacks Methodist Church” and “Christmas Tree Hasn’t Helped Sri Lankan Christians.” [9]

Jesus warned those who wish to follow Him, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 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. 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. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 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. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 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. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause’” [JOHN 15:18-25]. Let the wise take heed to what the Master says. Popularity with the world doesn’t factor into discipleship.

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