Why does the world persecute believers? That is happening around the world at a surprising rate. But, why? Why would you want to attack a person, doing them physical harm, casting them from your society?
I think, if we stop to really put some thought into this, we will see that we are not as sure about why people persecute believers as we think. For example, in most countries, Christianity is not a political movement that is endangering the present governmental power structure. Genuine Christians have not historically been militant or physically aggressive. (Yes, I know about the crusades, and I reject that those had anything to do with genuine Christianity.)
At the end of the day, the world will oppose Christianity because the world opposed Jesus. The Savior told us that in John 15 and Matthew 5. But you are unlikely to get the world around you to say that directly either.
What has me thinking about this is the strange reason that Peter tells the church that the world will oppose the first century believers living in Asia Minor.
1 Peter 4:4-5 – 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
Peter says that the world will oppose the church because Christians will not join with them in their evil actions. Can you imagine? Is it possible that a major source of problems for believers is not that we stand and fight against the world, but simply that we will not join in with things we cannot morally approve? Isn’t the battle cry of the present culture one of tolerance?
I think, if you have watched anything from the political realm over the last few months, you know that tolerance has little-to-nothing to do with the world in which we live. In the US, there are groups who will only be satisfied with the full assimilation or elimination of groups who oppose them. You either join in with the new morality, or the new morality will try to destroy you.
In the book of Revelation, we read about the 666, the mark of the beast. You know that many people have debated that mark in many ways and drawn many conclusions. But one thing is often not said about it which should be said. Something about that mark, that stamp of belonging to the world, is the key to commerce. If you will not wear that badge, you will be put out of business and starved out of society. Ignoring whether or not that number refers to an individual person or whether or not it is a visible marking on the body, is it not telling that John wrote of a time when, if you will not be able to be marked as one of the society at large, the society will try to drive you from the very marketplace?
Christians, the world around us will not think that we are great friends of theirs who just don’t go and do all the things they go and do. If you think that your church will grow big and strong by convincing the world of our goodness by telling them, “We are just like you guys except for our faith,” you are missing the clear promise of the word of God. The world does not look at the church as a collection of nice men and women, treasures to the community, who just happen to lean right morally. No, they are shocked and offended that you will not leap with them into sin, and they will malign you. The world will see us as a threat, not for attacking, but simply for not applauding them. And If you do not see that, you are not reading much in the news.
But Peter also reminds us that the Lord is in control. Our God reigns. Our God is the righteous judge. Our God will call all people and all deeds into account. Our God calls all people everywhere to repent and come to Jesus for salvation. And our hope is not in becoming popular in the world today. Our hope is in being faithful to Christ and living under his lordship for eternity.
My goal here is surely not to leave us thinking all negative all the time. Not all who are not Christians will hate and malign believers. Nor are all towns destined to immediately become bastions of persecution. But we are foolish if we do not see that there are trends of this sort of persecution flowing through politics and higher education all over our land. There are corporations where Christianity and Christian values would get you fired. There are cities where businesses run by openly Christian families are unwelcome. Social media is full of virtue signaling and morality testing that growl to the world that if you do not agree with them, if you do not give to their cause, if you do not applaud their agenda, they will bring the wrath of the Internet down on your organization, shame you, boycott you, and put you out of business. (Note, Christians, I will also say to you that many of us have earned this behavior by practicing it first when Christians held more political sway in our country, so I’m not after us playing the victim here.)
Our point is that we must be ready to live in a hard world. Our lives need to be faithful. But we cannot expect acceptance from a world that is shocked that we will not leap with them into the same pool. But we trust our Lord, we know he will set the world right, and we live to his glory even when it costs us.