The issue of Christians suffering for their faith in many countries throughout the world is a recurring theme and this would seem to be on the increase.The type of suffering reported in countries like my own (UK) and the US seem hardly comparable with the sort we heard about over Easter. In Lahore, targeted attacks on Christians by the Pakistani Taliban left more than 70 people dead and at least 300 injured, and this in the light of several earlier attacks on Christians. It was also reported that four Bible translators in the Middle east were murdered and an Indian Catholic priest who was kidnapped by ISIS-linked terrorists in Yemen earlier this month was crucified on Good Friday. There are many other stories that can be told. Because of my India connections, I am especially concerned over escalating unchecked attacks on Christians by militant Hindus. There many other countries where Christians are being persecuted.
People suffering on account of their faith, Christian or other, has occurred since the dawn of history and many reasons can be advanced for this phenomenon. For those who take their faith seriously, it is never an option to abandon their faith in the wake of persecution or assorted threats. The Christian teaching is clear on the matter – those who sincerely follow Jesus will be persecuted. While not an experience to be sought after, history often shows that the Church (that which brings together all true Christians) is often at its most vibrant and effective when its members are suffering on account of their faith. For the sake of balance, it should be added that suffering can be the experience of any of us, irrespective of our faith or not faith, and sometimes it is a result of our own folly. To understand the big picture will take more than a life time’s research!
While it is true that the suffering being experienced by Christians, often on account of their faith, is something that continues to exercise me, thanks to people daily alerting me via various media as to what is happening around the world, there is another trigger for my posting. I was watching a video clip of a New Zealand pastor comparing the sayings of US Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, and those of Jesus, as laid out in what we know as the Beatitudes. The last of these is: “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. As far as the pastor was concerned, Trump did not do well in carrying out Jesus teaching, although this is not the place for giving my views.
One of the things the pastor took issue with was Trump’s promise to protect Christians, in a culture where Christians and Christianity is coming under increasing attack, which as far as a number are concerned protection is something that needs to happen, and partly explains why Trump is so popular in some Christian quarters. The pastor argued rather than wanting protection, Christians should be more concerned about social justice matters and less so for their own well being. He is right of course, but there is a big BUT … Regarding Christians coming under attack in the UK and the US, and being ousted from the public square despite having much that is of value that they are able to contribute, there have been many stories in recent years of this happening. Just check out the Christian Institute and Christian Concern websites for examples. The latest, in my today inbox, has the title: “Sacked Christian magistrate Richard Page suspended from Kent NHS trust”.
Personally, I feel frustration that some of my Christian friends who should know better, do not get it when I make these points … Yet I completely agree with the notion derived from the eighth beatitude, as expressed by the early apostles, who after having received punishment, they went away rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. But what gets me is that while I don’t see martyrs for the faith here, I see many Christians losing their jobs, enduring public humiliation and being found on the wrong side of the law for acting consistently with their conscience. I see also the pressure put on Christian organizations, to either dumb down their Christian ethos or fail to be supported in their social activities. Meanwhile rubbish people and organizations that toe the line come to the fore and the people at large are the losers. If we are about promoting kingdom values, these things cannot be ignored.
The Bible provides many pictures of the church, e.g. as a building, bride and body, and when it comes to the body we are all inter-dependent and if one member suffers so do the other members. Unlike some of my Christian friends, I have not yet had to endure to the end and the worst that has happened to me is ridicule and ostracization. I hope though should I ever have to face that ultimate price that I will be faithful to the end. In the meantime, I for one will do what I can to stand with those who do suffer for their faith, for that faith is worth sticking by and the people who are prepared to endure suffering in these ways are worthy of our support.