“We help them if their house is burnt. If they’ve been beaten up, we take them to hospital. If they’ve been expelled from their village, we give them shelter.”
Those are the words of Abishek, an Open Doors partner in India, taken from their website. If you are a Christian, I commend you to look at the opendoorsuk.com website or the one in your country.
There is a lot about Christian persecution in the news at the moment. In December 2018 the British Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, recently commissioned the Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, to conduct an independent review of Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) support for persecuted Christians. The report was recently published. In brief, the report tells the Foreign Office that Britain should be protecting the world’s minorities and that persecution of Christians, at home and overseas, has often been overlooked. The report has been endorsed by the Archbishop of Westminster and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Independently of this, the Archbishop of London Archbishop Angealos, of the Coptic Orthodox Church, has been saying that the age of the Martyrs is not over, I recently shared the Church Times article.
Let me make it clear what persecution is not. It is not insisting on wearing a cross on a necklace in a workplace where necklaces are banned, such as working in a hospital. Deliberately going against safety regulations does not make you persecuted, just stupid. It also makes you a bad witness for Christ. At the same time as a case like this was making news ten years ago, my consultant in the hospital was wearing a cross badge on his lapel. The wearing of the cross was never the issue, it was the wearing of a necklace.
Real persecution is where Christians are refused jobs, fired from their jobs, refused promotions or demoted because of their faith. Arrested, and even executed for being Christians. Having their houses burnt down or looted because they are Christians. Being beaten up or even killed for being Christian. That is persecution.
Martyrdom is not ancient history, said Archbishop Angealos. He should know, there has been persecution of Coptic Christians in his homeland, Egypt, for decades. Persecution of Christians is now more widespread than ever before. Persecution of Christians is not only a thing the Romans did. The age of persecution, the age of martyrs, is the 21st Century.
It’s OK to suffer. I got fed up of the abusive theology coming out of parts of Evangelicalism when I was recovering from a bad accident. Depression was blamed on my lack of faith in God and they proved it by proof-texting. “If things are going bad you don’t have enough faith.” Try telling that to the persecuted. I never lost faith in God, but I did lose faith in theology which promised rewards to those who prayed. But I found a different theology, still within Evangelicalism. One that promised that God is with us through suffering, A theology that put me closer to the persecuted church from whence it came. A theology that put me closer to those marginalised by the church such as LGBT+ Christians. God is with those who suffer.
I mentioned proof-texting and I realise it does not change anyone’s mind in debate: I have no interest in going for a my texts are better than your texts debate, but for those who think the Bible is the beginning and not the end of the debate, here are some of the verses from there:
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:10 ESV
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. John 15:18
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:12
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33
Jesus warned us of trouble so that we may have peace and said, “I have overcome the world.” I like that.