Summary: Persecution of Christians is occurring all around the world. Even in America, some Christians are being pressured and criticized. What is the Christian response to persecution?
Lanier Christian Church
August 17, 2014
Persecution - What's a Christian to do?
Christians have made the news this past week...not for recognizing their noble service...but for suffering...for persecution.
Christians in northern Iraq have been killed for their faith in sadistic ways or expelled from their homes by muslim terrorists.
Christians in China have been forced by their local government to remove crosses from their church buildings or the government will tear them down. Government workers in Zhejiang province cut down the cross of a 129 year old church last week. Over 230 crosses have been removed this year.
Nepal is being pressured by India to change their constitution to restrict the religious freedom of Christians. American Pastor Saeed Abedini was sentenced to 8 years in an Iranian prison for his Christian faith. This past week he wrote a letter to his family telling them that other inmates who are members of ISIS, the muslim terrorist group, have threatened to kill him as soon as they get the chance. The family has appealed to President Obama for help in seeking to protect and release him.
Last week Christian women were arrested for distributing Christian leaflets in India.
Protestant Christians, especially those who promote Western values, are being beaten, kidnapped and sometimes murdered in Ukraine by Pro-Russian separatists.
Suicide bombings in northern Nigeria last week have raised concerns that the muslim terrorist group Boko Haram is forcing some of the 240 Christian girls abducted earlier this year to sacrifice their lives to force communities to convert to Islam. They already forced the girls to convert to Islam and wear the berka.
And here in our own backyard, Christian employees at Chestatee High School, just down the road, have been pressured by the Humanist Society under threat of a lawsuit, to stop praying and stop sharing scripture at school athletic and other school sponsored events.
But not only that, in my cousins' home town of Dublin,GA a small group of mall walkers were asked not to pray at the local Mall - even though it was a quiet prayer, saying it was against Mall policy. In addition the manager said prayers were not permitted by patrons praying over their food at the food court either.
ALL of these events have occured since we met last Sunday! Persecution of Christians is real. It is happening all over the world and even close to home.
It is upsetting. It is frightening. It is concerning. It angers many. And yet, what is a Christian to do in response?
Jesus said, as recorded in Matthew 5:38-45
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
We may lean toward the eye for an eye...tooth for a tooth response when it comes to persecution, but Jesus, our Savior, who is also our wise teacher says: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
So what should be our response when fellow Christians are under attack or when we, perhaps, are faced with persecution? We learn from Jesus that our first response must be....
1. PRAY SLIDE
I don't know about you, but my prayers are so often selfish in nature. I pray for myself, I pray for my family, I pray for my friends, I pray for friends of my friends...but I rarely pray for those brothers and sisters in Christ around the world who are faithful believers and yet are suffering terribly.
Are we too narrowly focued on ourselves when we pray? Since the church is the family of God, should we not consider our brothers and sisters around the world in our prayers? Should we not pray that God would change the hearts and plans of their tormentors?
It was moving for me to speak briefly with C.Y. Kim after he spoke for our area Ekklesia gathering at Galilee Christian Church last year. He is a missionary to South and North Korea and was educated in our Christian Church Bible Colleges. About 15 years ago he was to travel to the USA and speak here at Lanier for the area meeting of the GA Christian Missionary Rally. But, weeks before he was to leave, he was arrested and imprisoned by North Korean authorities. Dr. Wilbur Reid spoke in his place here at LCC and asked us to pray for C.Y.Kim that night. We did. Little did I know that I would see him again 15 years later - still preaching - not in prison any more - but under constant threat of persecution. Prayers made the difference he said.