I recently read an article describing the seemingly growing persecution of Christians in the Middle East and Africa (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/09/27/a-global-slaughter-of-christians-but-america-s-churches-stay-silent.html). In this article, there seems to be outrage from a few about the apparent lack of outrage from American Christians and American Churches in regards to this persecution. While I agree that we should be doing something, I’m not sure that anything we do will stop this persecution from happening. In fact, I have to think that there are only two things that will stop Christians worldwide from being persecuted. Christ’s second coming is the first and best option. The second, is to become like the majority of Christians that aren’t currently being persecuted.
What do I mean by that? I believe we have become so apathetic in our faith and relationships, and that is why we are able to avoid persecutions. We are fitting into the world too much, and because of that, no one on the outside thinks it’s worth the effort to try to make us stop living for Christ (if we are really living like Christ). Jesus taught his disciples that they were to expect persecutions. In fact, he stated that they would be persecuted because the world had persecuted and would continue persecute him. John 15:18-25 states, “‘If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’”
I am not trying to say that we should be silent about persecution around the world. What I am saying, however, is that we should take a long, hard look out our own lives and try to figure out why we are not necessarily facing persecution ourselves. I love religious freedom. I love that this country was founded with the idea of being able to freely worship without fear. But I also strongly believe that if we are living in relationship with Christ the way we should be, then we are going to look so much different from everyone around us that we will be persecuted. Whether we have religious freedom or not. Maybe it won’t be to the extent that we are currently seeing in the Middle East and Africa. It may not even be facing death (yet). But we should be so different from those around us that people are either asking what we have in our lives that cause us to look so different, or cause people to lash out at us because of our differences.
Christianity was a radical movement when it started. It challenged the cultural norms of the day. The problem seems to be that now we, as Christians, try to make Christianity mainstream and fit into the culture. There are good things about this, but when our central message is not so much different that any other social club, then we are not going to draw attention. We need to be relevant in our culture, so we have to change the way we present our message, but we also need to be focused on the central message. A growing, changing, and deep relationship with Christ is a must. And when we have that relationship and it is changing us, the world becomes uncomfortable with that. It draws some people in, and it pushes some people to lash out against it. Either way, it makes people pay attention and doesn’t allow us to slip through this life unnoticed. Matthew 5:14-16, “14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
So, what should the churches and Christians in America be doing about the persecution popping up in the Middle East and Africa? I think we need to lift this group up in prayer for strength and courage. I also think we need to take a long, hard look at our faith. Are we making people around us uncomfortable because we are truly different from the world around us, due to our relationship with Christ? Or are we being tolerated because we aren’t living out what we say we believe? Our lives should be a sermon for people to see and a Bible for people to read. Sure, we will make mistakes and not always live out what we believe, but we should grow from that. Outrage? Yes, we should be doing more for those around the world. But our true outrage should maybe be about the way we are living and conforming to the world. (Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.“