I believe that as we look around we might sometimes feel as though it can be difficult to live as Christians in our current environment. There are many around us who reject the biblical form of Christianity. If you live as the Bible tells us to live, you may be ridiculed and laughed at by many. This has risen to the point that many in certain industries are not open with their faith, like Hollywood entertainment or the public university system.
If you do not give in to these pressures to be silent, you may be mocked or ridiculed, shunned, or possibly you find yourself blackballed from certain jobs, or even attacked by the local or state governments with various charges and lawsuits.
Before you feel as though all is lost, remember what Jesus said, “If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you as well.” John 15:20
The truth is, for a true believer in this world, you can either have some who will persecute you for you open faith, or you can grieve God by your silent faith. I don’t know about you, but I choose to honor God openly.
Persecution is certainly not desirable, and sadly, I have seen people persecuted for their faith in various ways over the years I have been a Christian. I have spoken to a number of people since I have moved to Tooele who have felt persecuted and rejected because of their Christian faith, and again that is sad.
But to be honest, in this country, Christians do not generally suffer much by persecution. They may lose a friend, or their neighbor won’t talk to them anymore. As you can see in the news, some have lost jobs, or even had their business bankrupt by state government lawsuits. And although these things are regrettable, they usually pick up the pieces and move on with their lives.
Praise God He blesses them and keeps them, and whether they are vindicated in a higher court or not, they are able to continue to be a witness for our Lord Jesus. I wish it were different, and I believe it may even get worse, but again, they usually are able to move on with their lives.
But that is not the case with many of the nearly 2 billion Christians in other parts of the world. Currently there are at least 50 countries that restrict Christianity, and about 20 that I found in which Christians are at risk from the population, even though the governments say they try to protect them.
In the restrictive countries you have no real protection, and many Christians lose their jobs, are abused, horribly beaten, and even killed by citizens as well as the government. You are probably familiar with anti-Christian policies in North Korea, China, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, India, and other higher profile countries, but there are many others. In these countries our brothers and sisters in Christ are at risk daily.
I share this because I believe we need to be increasingly aware of how bad persecution can be and is in many countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. In the majority of those countries it is very dangerous to be a Christian, especially a Christian who is willing to share their faith in Jesus with others.
We as Christians in this great country have an obligation to pray for our sisters and brothers around the world. In James 5:16 God tells us that the fervent prayers of a righteous person make a difference. You need to realize that if you are a Christian you have been covered by the righteousness of Christ, and that you are righteous. That means that your fervent prayers can make a difference for our sisters and brothers who suffer persecution.
You may not think you are righteous. I would encourage you to remember that in 2 Peter 2:7 God refers to Lot as a righteous man. If you have read the Bible you possibly think that Lot was not so righteous; that Lot was very much like some Christians you know that don’t seem very righteous, and yet God referred to Lot as a righteous man.
That should encourage you as to how God sees you in Christ, and even more, it should encourage you as you approach God’s throne of grace to intercede on behalf of persecuted Christians around the world, that God hears your prayers, and those prayers make a difference.
On Nov. 3 there is an annual International Day of Prayer for persecuted Christians in the world. These are people of faith who suffer greatly at the hands of others simply because of their faith. They lose their homes, their churches are often burned down, and sometimes they are killed.
That day is not only a day we join together as the Body of Christ throughout the world to lift our brothers and sisters up to the throne of grace, but we also remind the world of their plight, calling on those in authority in many nations to bring pressure to bear on these nations that persecute people of faith.
I pray that you will spend time praying for Christians who are persecuted simply because they love Jesus. How sad that simply by loving others with the love of Christ they suffer the hatred of the world.
Praise God that He is more than able to comfort and minister to them as they suffer. But you are encouraged in the Bible to care about them and to stand with them as if you suffered right alongside of them. (Hebrews 13:3)
May God’s will be done in your life.
Jon McCartney is pastor of First Baptist Church of Tooele.