When I hear about persecution, I want to be like Peter and draw out my sword and chop someone’s ear off.
I want to fix the current situation, not realizing that it’s part of a bigger picture. I hear about wars, and about the genocide in Iraq, and overall persecution of Christians, and my stomach turns.
The human side of me goes “Uh hello, where is God in all this? These are His kids.”
The Jesus side of me goes “Uh hello, this is prophesied. These are His kids.”
Oh yeah. Prophecy.
Persecution is part of what is coming… it’s happening. Honestly, we can pray to dodge it, we can pray for those being persecuted to not get persecuted, but in a way… God told us in advance that evil and wars in this world were gonna happen. This is to be expected, fam. Prophecies are gonna come true. All of them. Not just some. As we read in our Bibles, we must brace yourselves. Jesus is coming back soon! Soon! Persecution is coming, and for some it’s already here.
In the American church we find our pastors apologizing when they go over the allotted message time. We find our congregations prone to complain about the room temperature, the volume of the worship, the lyrics on the screens… honestly, the furthest thing from a persecuted church. Gun to their heads, would they deny Him? I don’t know. I hope not. The Bible says in Mark 4 and in Matthew 13 that there are some who last just a short time in the faith, but when persecution comes, they quickly fall away.
Would you fall away?
Would you try to preserve your life at the cost of denying Jesus?
Would you be okay with being a martyr? What about your children? Your family? When I was gearing up to go on the World Race, I knew right away that my family was not okay with me being a martyr or traveling to sketchy places. But safety, true safety, is in Christ. Of all the deaths, to die for the One who died for me? Wouldn’t that be the best way to go out?
There are some mature, brave believers that are dying out in the persecuted places of the world, just as prophesied. And our first reaction is outrage, like Peter. We see pictures of their corpses, of children strewn about, and it’s extremely disturbing, but as believers in Christ, we know that the corpse does not represent the ending. Those terrorists can only kill the body, my friends.
Even so, what do we expect for each person? To live to 90, have a 401k, go fishing, and die gently like the Notebook? That’s not what usually happens. Is our outrage stemming from the brutality or the motive for persecution? I’m asking a lot of questions so we can process it together.
I think the brutality is the shock factor of persecution… an unfair death, too soon, at least for me as I see the news, that’s what makes me the most upset. But I ask God and I realize that all those saints are up with Him. All those children, all those believers are rejoicing with Him right now, rushing together into the gates of heaven. And with that many people called up at once, obviously something is going on for the Kingdom.
Think for a minute about the honor of dying for the Name of Jesus. Can you see that when persecution increases, revival stirs? That the lost see a people who are willing to die for the TRUTH, and surrender their lives for THE LIFE, and they take their first eternal breaths and step into glory?
I am by no means condoning the evil of one person taking the life of another, or trying to diminish the loss or the suffering of the saints… no… if anything, I am highlighting it and emphasizing it. This great suffering here, exchanged for surpassing glory.
The mangled bodies in those pictures are in surpassing glory with the King of Kings. Replaced with eternal bodies. Whole. Clothed in white. What you see with your eyes is not what is happening in the heavenly heights.
Train your eyes, friends.
To live is Christ and to die is gain. The more I try to line up with that, the more I start to think that a vibrant life in Christ in this day and age is not dependent on length. I believe that these martyrs, even though they’re young, lived full lives, and as they breathe right now, in heaven, they are singing to the King. As it says in Hebrews 11, ‘the world was not worthy of them.’
Would we be willing to be so brave?
I think that kind of bravery, whether persecuted or not, brings many to salvation.
My current favorite worship song played this morning at church. We sang about a God who makes us brave, who calls us out beyond the shore into the waves. “No fear can hinder now the love that made a way.” And this is so… nothing can hinder us from Him, not terrorism, not death.
As it says in Romans 8:35-39,
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.