Not surprisingly, not everyone wants you to share about your faith in Christ. That’s not only true today, it was true in the days of the early church as well. In fact, it has always been true regarding the biblical way of salvation.
It’s recorded in Acts 4:1-22 that the Jewish religious leaders of the apostolic days did not want Peter and John talking about Jesus. They not only incarcerated and threatened them, but we see in chapter 5 that they beat them.
Peter and John were told by the rulers that they were not allowed to talk about Jesus publicly anymore. The disciples told the religious leaders that they had to decide if it was better for Peter and John to obey man or obey God. But as far as John and Peter were concerned, they had to obey God and tell others what God had said and done.
John and Peter were in good company. Jeremiah, one of the Old Testament prophets, was told on a number of occasions that he was not to speak anything bad about Jerusalem and Judah, even if God told him to. At one point he was placed in prison because of his prophecies where he remained until Jerusalem fell to the Babylonian army.
Throughout the Old Testament you find many servants of God who were told not to speak in the name of the Lord. In addition many of God’s prophets were murdered simply because they faithfully served the Lord. Sadly, Abel, the first person ever to be murdered, was killed because his brother Cain could not stand Abel living out his faith, as you can read in 1 John 3:12.
The disdain for the Bible is no less in the minds of many within our nation today. Certainly there are many in the world that would rather we do not speak about Jesus, or live out our faith. Some are bold enough to tell us that what we believe should be shared only in the privacy of our homes, or in our churches. In fact, some public leaders don’t want what we believe to be spoken even in the privacy of our churches.
Today many people are asking, “Do we have a right to share and live out our faith?” Clearly, as in the case of John and Peter, others will say that we should not be allowed to speak of Christ openly, or that we shouldn’t be allowed to live out our faith openly.
As I stated earlier, that has always been the case to one degree or another in our world. But if you are born again, the issue is not “do you have the right.” The fact is you have an obligation to live out your faith, and to shine the light of Christ into the dark world in which you live.
Jesus warned us that since they persecuted Him they would certainly persecute us. In fact, He said that many of them who do so will actually think they are doing what God wants.
If you follow the news, you know that Christian bakers, florists, and photographers, just to name a few professions, have come under legal attack for trying to live out their faith. In fact, even though the U.S. Supreme Court declared one baker to be free to pursue his profession as his Christian beliefs dictate, the State of Colorado is attacking him again.
Sadly, the truth is that the persecution Christians receive in this nation, although it is wrong, is nothing compared to the egregious persecution many Christians are subject to in other nations. In fact, according to a number of studies, Christianity is currently the most persecuted religion in the world. Christian’s homes are burned down, Christian churches are destroyed, and Christians are beaten and even murdered at an alarming rate. (Such reports can be easily found online.)
I do not believe we should simply shrug our shoulders and say, “that’s just the way it is,” but before we get too focused on “our rights” as Americans we need to consider who we primarily are, and what that demands of us in our speaking and living.
Before we consider our nationality and the allegiance that nationality should inspire, we must first realize and confess that we are first and foremost citizens of the Kingdom of God. That has the highest claim on us, regardless of where in the world we live.
As citizens of the Kingdom of God, we are also ambassadors of God’s kingdom. That honor requires that we live and speak for God according to His Word, regardless of the challenges we might encounter for such speech or actions.
God’s Word is very clear; as you live and abide in Christ you are actually a blessing to those around you, even if they do not see it that way. In addition, the Book of Hebrews reminds us that God is faithful and He will not forget your service to others in His Name.
I pray that the persecution believers experience in this country and around the world decreases in frequency and severity, but even more I pray that all who have placed their faith and trust totally in Christ for the gifts of forgiveness and eternal life will live and speak for Christ, come what may.
It may not be easy, but you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.
Jon McCartney is pastor of First Baptist Church of Tooele.