Persecution. The word conjures up images of torture and the Spanish Inquisition, burnings, hangings, and disfigurements.
But in the developed world, mostly anyway, persecution is more subtle. Modern martyrs aren’t all beheaded in Iraq by ISIS.
So below I list 4 kinds of persecution that exists in today’s western world.
1. Workplace Descrimination.
Some of them are working alongside you in your office. They are the ones who are ridiculed daily for their faith. Perhaps they are a little more vocal about being a Christian than we have been. Perhaps the result is a subtle ostracizing of them. A passing over for promotion here. Refused leave there – especially around Christmas or Easter. There’s always a “legal” reason these things can be refused and denied, but persecution often whittles away at the spirit of an individual. I know of people denied training as psychologists because they mentioned in their application that they went to church – while their Muslim and Hindu fellow applicants were given places. It’s a surprisingly common double standard that exists today.
Too often we allow ourselves to be silenced because of it. We become “living dead” instead of proclaiming life. We have the light in us, but we hide it instead of letting it shine because it’s inconvenient for us to shine out for the Gospel. It might even affect the size of our bank account! The persecution is subtle, but effective. It serves its purpose. It silences the witnesses even more effectively than death as the individual becomes a walking example of turning away.
2. From The Church Itself!
The happen often from the lies that creep in because we’ve lost sight of the complete picture of the Gospel. We become flies trying to make sense of a Da Vinci painting or a Michelangelo sculpture. We only see the piece we’re standing on, and fail to grasp the nature of the whole truth. The enemy divides us through bickering and confusion in attempt to conquer. False doctrines such as salvation by works, get-rich gospels, forced traditions or forced emotionalism separate us into different camps. We lose track of who the enemy is and pull the trigger against each other.
3. Discrimination Against Those Perceived As “Greater Sinners.”
Even among those who aren’t part of a church, sins are often categorized in tiers, as though some are less abhorrent than others. Yet at the same time, Paul does write that sexual sin is a worse sin than others (see “Are All Sins Equal?”):
Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).
Sexual immorality is a sin against our own body. There’s no room for interpretation here. No “wiggle room.” Yet I’ve heard pastors advise that it’s not so bad to sleep with the person you’re dating. Everyday a new generation are conceived to professing believers outside marriage. The modern paradigm is “See how the baby works out. Perhaps we can get married then.” How far removed from Paul’s teaching.
Other sin listed is overlooked completely. We covet cars and assets. Women and men are objectified and worshiped by us, idolatry in a subtle though sometimes obvious form. We believe our own “need” for the latest phone or tablet is not covetousness, but those who make more money than us are selfish and greedy.
How subtle. How easily we slip away from the truth of Christ. We justify the sins that we struggle with and vilify the sins of others. It’s another form of persecution against Christians by Christians. Let’s call it Christian-on-Christian persecution!
4. Being Taught Or Exposed To Only One View of Scripture.
While truth is not relative, there are nuances and perspectives we might miss if we only subscribe to the opinion of one person. We should have the freedom to decide for ourselves. Otherwise we’re being exposed to a form of brainwashing.
Hearing only one person or one church’s interpretations of the Bible also weakens our ability to respond to false doctrine and teachings. We should weigh what we hear and see. We should ask if it lines up with the Bible. We must reject it if it doesn’t match. And unless you can read Aramaic and Greek, use more than one translation to try to find the deeper meanings of the passages. Moffatt’s translation, and many other translations give insight into the other possible translations of words accepted blindly since the Authorized Version was commissioned by King James in England. Personally I like the Amplified Version as it gives a complete listing of many words. What’s more, get a copy of Strong’s Concordance and look up the key words in passages to find the fuller meanings and weigh the apparent facts to find the truth inferred automatically by the writers.
We must have the intellectual freedom to ensure we have as many of the facts and perspectives possible so that we don’t inadvertently reject the truth or keep our children from it.
Persecution By Any Other Name
All of this lies in the boundaries of persecution in the 21st century of the West. All these things so easily discarded and now ignored wedge between us and Christ. He never said He had come that we would have material goods in abundance. Maybe we will and maybe we won’t but goods are not life. There is no Life in a gaming console. We live like the Sims for so much of the time. Separated from the Vine by choice. Withering and dying without even noticing.
Yes, what we think of as persecution goes on. Lives are cut short in places like Iraq, China and other countries by those determined to destroy Christianity (often in governments given too much power). But these visible modern martyrs are small in number compared to the number who backslide from their Savior because its inconvenient to follow the Gospel in its fullness.
We have no choice but to sail our faith ship straight into the storm of the World, but let’s not turn around and let the storm blow us into who knows where, let’s adjust our sail to make the storm drive us closer to Jesus. Then we become a beacon for others lost in the storm looking for answers. Remember: we hold the chart to a safe harbor and solid ground.
It is time for us as Christians to come out and stand united and defy the ruler of this world. We let too much slide by. The holocaust of unborn lives being executed in the name of convenience while we hand out information packs on HIV and “safe” sex instead of teaching them to respect not only themselves, but their future husband or wife as well. Abstinence is a certain way to prevent any STD. But the concept is laughed at. The notion of a celibate life followed by a secure monogamous marriage is laughed at by the world while the church often sits and does nothing.
Don’t be deceived. We face persecution every day.Our friends and family throw it at us. Secular leaders do it all the time. Even some misguided ministers do it. We need to stand against all advances of the enemy. We must fortify the faith we hold dear by encouraging each other and by holding ourselves accountable to the Word of God. And finally, we must not turn a blind eye to those in other countries whose lives are under constant threat because of their faith. We must join their fight. The organization, Voice of the Martyrs helps keep us informed and allows us to give directly to helping those persecuted for their faith.
It’s the start of fighting persecution. And make no mistake: we walk behind enemy lines in an all out war surrounded by the enemy on all sides and the only way out is to fight through with truth. Truth will overcome any persecution. Even persecution to the point of death.