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By Tyson Thorne

January 24, 2018
 
 

2017 was a hard year for Christians worldwide, with a large increase in persecution. In Iraq for instance, where the Christian population once numbered about 1.5 million there are only 200,000 survivors. In predominantly Muslim countries, Christian women particularly are targeted. They are kidnapped, raped, their children taken to be raised as Muslim and the women then killed , sold to sex traficers, or returned to their villages. Pastor's daughters are especially sought out as they bring more money. It is estimated that six women each day are persecuted in very real fashion each day.

These figures are from the World Watch List, produced by Open Doors USA. Are they credible? The Federal governemnt seems to think so. The US Congress passed a bill six months ago to provide relief for Christian victims around the globe, assistance to rebuild homes and communities and protection for ravished areas. Unfortunately the bill has been stalled in the Senate, not once being brought forward for a vote. It might be a good idea to call your senator and ask him why.

This level of persecution is not limited to Muslim nations, either. According to David Curry, president of Open Doors USA, said, "Afghanistan and North Korea are nearly tied [for first place]... Both countries are extreme in intollerance and outright persecution of Christians..." Cury is referring to his organizations list of the top 50 countries that persecute believers. Interestingly, while Afghanistan is a Muslim country North Korea is an atheist regime. This proves it is more than a religious conflict, it is a spiritual one.

Such persecution is not unexpected. Jesus warned us in Matthew 10.16-23,

“I am sending you out like sheep surrounded by wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of people, because they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues. And you will be brought before governors and kings because of me, as a witness to them and the Gentiles. Whenever they hand you over for trial, do not worry about how to speak or what to say, for what you should say will be given to you at that time. For it is not you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
“Brother will hand over brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by everyone because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Whenever they persecute you in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes."

Persecution is a very specific thing. It is different from discrimination, oppression and other sorts of evil. According to dictionary.com persecution is a program or campaign to exterminate, drive away, or subjugate people based on their membership in a religious, ethnic, social, or racial group. This differs from discrimination in that it is planned and doesn't favor or disfavor a person, group or class based on individual merit. Also, persecution revolves around a persons belonging, not their skin color or economic status. In the New Testament, persecution is an organized campaign to mistreat Christians with no regard for their physical life.

 

Jesus' instruction to us in the passage above is interesting. There is nobility in standing against oppression and fighting for equality, but in the case of persecution we are instructed to flee. We've discussed before that both Old and New Testaments permit a person to defend themselves from theft, oppression and discrimination but not persecution. We have abundant examples of flight (even Jesus did so on one ocassion in John 10.39) and of death when flight was not an option (Acts 7.54-60 and 14.19-20). Why do kingdom people behave this way?

The author of Hebrews offers us an answer to that question. After describing many forms of persecution the people had endured in verses 32 through 34 of chapter 10, he tells us this: "So do not throw away your confidence, because it has great reward. For you need endurance in order to do God’s will and so receive what is promised." In other words, we endure persecution because of the confidence we have in God and his plan for history and our lives.

The author ends this discussion of persecution by giving us example after example of people who lived by faith, which is confidence in what we have not seen. There can be no doubt that acceptance of the world's hatred of Jesus and his followers is an acf of faith, so no self defense is required. Remember this in days ahead, for while we live free from such persecution in the west, many of our brothers and especially our sisters in Christ do not have such freedom. Pray for them diligently and regularly. After all, the State Department and aid can only do so much, but God can do all things.

For a modern example of inspiration, read the article located here: www.foxnews.com/world/2018/01/17/christian-convert-from-iran-converting-muslims-in-sweden.html

 
 
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