The blasts that rocked Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday 2019 sent shockwaves all over the world that reached the United Stated. Finally, the targeted persecution of Christians was reported in the mainstream news. The tsunami of reaction, if we can call that, even led to a Newsweek article acknowledging that Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world today, and the targeted hostility is on the rise.
The news is not that persecution of Christians around the world is on the rise. The news is that mainstream news reported it. Not that it could be ignored. The numbers were too big. They were too big to ignore, unlike the ongoing killings in Nigeria, and India, and Pakistan and arrests in China and burning and demolition of churches that occur increments that are easier to let slip by.
But, let’s be real here. Christian pleas for recognition and sympathy, as was shown for the killing of Muslims at Christchurch or institutionally marginalized people in our own culture who are rising on the shoulders of the Christian notion of the exaltation of the weak and oppressed is largely falling on deaf ears. And Christians aren’t happy about it.
Let’s be even more real here. Christians are not persecuted in the United States and never have been. That the tide of popular opinion about Christians and Christianity is turning, has turned, is not the same as persecution. That Christians are seen as the oppressors, the privileged and the keepers of the gates to be stormed by the cultural elite who have secured themselves in the cultural command center does not equate to persecution… yet.
But, we need to be careful here. We need to keep our eyes on Jesus. We need to follow His lead, and not react out of our flesh. We need to maintain the right perspective. The perspective of people for whom Jesus has made a place with Him.
Many think we protest too much, and they aren’t having it. Frankly, they are right, though we are losing, and perhaps have lost, our place in this society that was built on the shoulders of Christ. That they are kicking that foundation out from under the framework of western civilization that was built upon that framework and is dependent on it, does not equate to persecution.
Perhaps, persecution is (will be) the inevitable consequence of such a coupe. When freedom of speech is discarded after protecting the outcasts who have mounted the offensive behind its shield, like a bridge that is burned after using its advantage, it will not protect those who need it yet. I do fear for the future generations who don’t appreciate the utterly radical and ennobling message of the Sermon on the Mount or its key influence in the making the present coupe possible.
Though they won’t let us forget it, we mustn’t dismiss the accusations, though they sting, of our failures. Christians have failed to live out the radical message of the Gospel in ways that now haunt us, and the ammunition we have given them is being used against us – like ISIS using the US supplied munitions to fight against the Democracy we tried to protect.
Victim status has become one of those weapons. That twisted and warped application of the message of the Gospel has proven effective, but it doesn’t play well when Christians attempt to use it in the same warped and twisted way. It won’t end well either way. Not for them. Not for us.
We can’t let ourselves stoop as low. We can’t play the victim and hope that it will save us. Such a salvation is as hollow as the spirit of the age that champions it. It may save us (though I doubt it) from becoming the real victims of persecution. But at what cost? We will have let go of the real savior for a false one.
When we have become the real victims of persecution, and it probably will happen, we will be following in the long trail of footsteps of the followers of Jesus who first tasted the dust of an outcast existence. Longing, then, for a city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God, may become our rightful posture.
I would suggest we remember, as the Hebrews were urged to remember, except that we don’t have such a memory:
“Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.” (Hebrews 10:32-34
We don’t have those memories in the US. We haven’t been persecuted as a people. We may have lost our position and influence in our present culture, but that isn’t persecution.
Still, we are urged:
“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” (Hebrews 12:3-4)
What sin is it that we have not resisted to the point of shedding our blood? Consider the context: The context is Jesus who endured opposition from sinners. What the sin that needs to be resisted? What is the sin that Jesus certainly must have resisted as he endured the opposition of sinners?
It’s not just any sin. It’s the sin of pride, the sin of desiring retaliation, the sin of affront, the sin of wanting to resist, to make the opposers of the Gospel to pay for their transgressions against us. This is the sin we are urged to resist, like Jesus did, as he endured the opposition without losing heart.
We don’t lose heart because we aren’t hoping for a city we can build, maintain and settle into in this life. We are looking for a City with real foundations, whose architect and builder is not us, but God!