Just a few years ago, it seems that the only cases of persecuted Christians we would hear about would be those made public by the likes of Pastor Richard Wurmbrand.
He and his wife were imprisoned and tortured for many years behind the Iron Curtain from the 1950’s and, when released late in life, were able to start a ministry to assist the Christians imprisoned for their faith, and to support their families.
At the time many of us in comfortable Australia thought that was bad enough – the wicked and godless communists got some sort of evil pleasure from inflicting pain and hardship on our fellow believers.
But communism wasn’t threatening us so the problem seemed to be a long way away.
But now the situation has changed in at least two ways:
1. The main persecution of Christians now is done by radical Muslims – in very many countries, some at our back door.
2. Islamic persecution of Christians has recently grown very quickly, with government support, and threatens to eliminate Christianity in many African and Asian countries.
Persecution is not New
The persecution of Christ and his disciples was happening for several years before Stephen became the first Christian martyr.
The parable Jesus told in Mark 12:1-11 about the persecution and murder of the son of the vineyard owner, was actually a prophecy of what would happen to Him.
It was also a warning of what all Jesus’ followers could expect.
Throughout history, it has been the Jews and the Christians who have suffered the most from persecution.
Jewish persecution reached its peak in Europe in the 1930’s-40’s, but prophecy tells of a worse period to occur during the Great Tribulation, or the “Time of Jacob’s Trouble.”
Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is a classic piece of accumulated evidence of the persecution of thousands of Christians over the centuries. It is worth reading in order to get an idea of the way our brethren have been faithful to the death, at the hands of different groups, at all stages of Church history.
If you don’t have a copy, just ask to borrow mine. You will be amazed at the stories of patient endurance.
I also recommend Barnabas Aid as one good and reliable source for news on persecution today, and for ways of helping our persecuted brothers and sisters in many countries.
Persecution in Australia
Any person who has decided to stand for God’s truth, morality or Biblical authority, has had the experience of persecution.
They may not have been jailed, tortured or killed, but almost certainly they will have suffered degrees of scoffing, mocking and maybe other forms of bullying, including fines.
Just recently the Pastor of Hamilton Baptist Church in Victoria attracted the ire of the homosexual community by daring to suggest that none of us would have even been here as the result of homosexual activity.
This self-evident statement, printed on a Church window, was attacked by the usual suspects, the Gay and Lesbian Lobby, etc, and he was pilloried for his statement which is based on God’s word and common sense.
Changing legislation is also likely to bring about persecution even more, as we in Geelong have seen recently when a Christian dentist was set up and taken to VCAT because he dared to speak to a patient about the Lord Jesus Christ.
The internet blog http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/ contains many examples of current Christian persecution worldwide.
Persecution from Within the Church
The horrifying thing about the situation in Hamilton I believe was the response of a spokesman for the Australian Baptist Union, Rev Rod Benson.
Rev Benson said, ‘It’s very regrettable that one of our Baptist churches would choose to put such a statement on the outside of their building. It sends the wrong message. We want to treat all people, without exception, with respect, and it’s not helpful in the debate about marriage to have those kinds of childish slogans displayed on our churches.’
Well, Rev Benson, I believe your statement is much more childish. You show no understanding at all of the gospel message, or why Jesus came to die for sinners, ie, the mission of the Church.
If you think that the Baptist Churches ought to welcome sinners WITHOUT teaching them the message of salvation and repentance, then maybe Baptists all over the country should be working to remove you.
If Rev Benson does not repent from his attitude to homosexuality then I advise him to read 1 Cor 6:9.
Maybe Baptists ought to also carefully consider Revelation 18:4!
What Can We Do?
Can we, as Christians in the pews, do anything about the deterioration of Christianity happening now?
Many Church leaders have been corrupted by the world, and some pastors, when standing for the truth, are taken to task and persecuted by their so-called ‘superiors’, as we have seen in our own backyard.
Yes! We can:
1. Pray for wisdom.
2. Study the Scriptures.
3. Resist the devil and all cultural pressures.
4. Show love to all people.
5. Continue to preach repentance and salvation.
6. Encourage one another to keep living godly lives.