A Surprising Source of Persecution

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.

A political Plot

The Book of Esther is an amazing account of the sovereignty of God preserving the line of promise in some incredible ways. A major part of what happens involves a political plot by an evil man to attempt to destroy the Jews. And, if we watch carefully, we will see some modern-day parallels.

Haman was a wicked and powerful political official. IN the opening paragraph of Esther 3, Haman is offended by Mordecai the Jew, because Mordecai would not bow to Haman in the way that Haman wanted. Haman’s selfishness, pride, and bitterness led him to find out what was Mordecai’s nationality, and then to seek the destruction of all Jews. Note, this was all about Haman’s personal offense.

Here is Haman’s plot hatched.

Esther 3:8-9 – 8 Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the king’s laws, so that it is not to the king’s profit to tolerate them. 9 If it please the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed, and I will pay 10,000 talents of silver into the hands of those who have charge of the king’s business, that they may put it into the king’s treasuries.”

Haman approaches the king with two factors to attempt to sway the king against the Jews. First, Haman argues that there is a people who do not benefit the king because they are different. Haman highlights that a people group with different values, different morality, from the king are dangerous and unhelpful. Haman also falsely accuses the Jews of not keeping the law of the land. This was a lie, but it piggy-backed nicely with what he had already done to accuse the Jews. Note, Haman says these people are dangers because they are different and then he lied about them to make them look even worse.

Third, Haman then offered the king straight cash. If the king would let Haman take care of this pesky problem, Haman would see to it that a lot of gold would find its way into the treasury. Note, Haman tried to buy influence, and succeeded.

Are there modern-day parallels? IF you pay attention to politics, yes. In the U.S., Canada, and Britain, we have seen stories of people rising up against Christians in various ways. What is interesting is that the rationale and tactics are nearly identical. People are opposing the people of God because they are offended by us. We will not bow to things they want us to bow to, we will not celebrate what they demand we applaud, and they are furious—just like Haman. So they attempt to sway the governments and courts—just like Haman. Some will tell society that we are dangerous because we are different, we do not value what others value, we are on the wrong side of history—just like Haman. Some will say that we are refusing to obey the laws of the nation, an accusation that is not true but which is costly to defend against—just like Haman. And many of the most outspoken against Christians and our values are those who are dumping massive amounts of funds into political campaigns—just like Haman.

But if we see those parallels, we should also see the major parallel that goes with them: God is in control as much today as yesterday. God moved in Esther’s day to preserve his people. His moves were amazing. His moves were unexpected by many. But his moves kept his people alive, keeping his promise alive. And we have no reason to believe that God is unable to do the same today.

God does not promise us a peaceful political future. He may indeed allow us to glorify him by living in a nation where it is very hard to be a believer in society. But, and this is important, God is just as much in control of the world today as he has ever been. So we need not lose hope or lose heart. God will, in the end, show that his name is glorious and his ways are right. God will set all right, Christ will reign, and we, the people of God, will find our blessing in eternity with the Savior.

A Prayer We Often Miss

When you pray, do you pray for governmental leaders? When you pray for them, do you pray biblically?

In 1 Timothy 2, God calls us to pray for political leaders, but the rationale he gives us might surprise you.

1 Timothy 2:1-2 – 1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

Paul says to pray in all sorts of ways for all sorts of people. He includes rulers, which is fascinating since Nero was the Emperor of Rome at that time. Part of a Christian’s prayer life is to include requests regarding kings, presidents, etc.

But note the why. I think that is fascinating. We pray for our leaders, because we want to live peaceful and quiet lives, godly and dignified. This is not praying for the leaders that we be massively impactful in the community. It is not praying for the leaders that we get special favor to become the church of the state. It is not praying for our leaders that we get to put up a nativity scene in the town square or a monument to the Ten Commandments on the courthouse lawn. It is a prayer for our leaders that we be allowed to live out our faith in peace.

Christians, be praying for leadership. Be praying for government. But this is no call to think that government is the solution to the problems of the land. We pray so that we can be free to serve the Lord. WE pray, because we want to see leaders saved, which pleases God just as much as it pleases God when non-leaders are saved (cf. verses 3-ff). And with that prayer is our commitment to live out peaceful, quiet, godly, dignified lives as Christians.

May we be people who pray for our leaders and pray biblically. And then may we be a people who live as the Lord has called us, peacefully, quietly, with dignity, in godliness, in accord with the Lord’s commands, to the glory of God.