Last week I wrote about the first four signs Jesus gave to His disciples in the gospel of Mark which would warn them of His return. They were False Messiahs, Wars, Earthquakes and Famines. The next one is persecution. [Mark 13:9-13]. Jesus told His disciples to expect persecution and we get the clear impression that Jesus is not saying “…If you are persecuted” but “When.” But why should we expect persecution in this world? Precisely because Jesus told us the world would hate us since it hated Him. This leads us to the sobering conclusion that if we are not being persecuted as He was then maybe we aren’t following His commands closely enough. In verse 13 He says “Everyone will hate you because of me …”.
Anyway, our eyes should be open to the types of persecution being suffered in the world today by the real followers of Christ. Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ in Muslim and Communist countries are being cruelly persecuted right at this moment. There are many facets of persecution – let’s have a look at a few so we can be more aware:
1. Torture and death. In most democratic countries this does not happen, but the brutal murder by Muslim terrorists in a British street last year brings home clearly the direction in which we are headed. Our brethren in hostile countries already face those things and it follows the same type of persecutions Christians have faced ever since Stephen was killed. These persecutions have been, over time, at the hands of Jews, Roman emperors, Popes, communist rulers and other dictatorships as well as by Muslim regimes. It may only be a matter of time before we face these here.
2. Loss of homes, families and jobs. The modern-day Christian sufferers of these persecutions include many in Syria and in Egypt at the present time, not to mention China or North Korea. The Barnabas Fund gives many examples of people suffering in these ways.
3. Imprisonment. This type of persecution has spread to the democratic countries. In recent years we have been told of Christians being imprisoned in the USA for standing up against abortion, homosexual marriage, refusal to deny Christ by standing firm on public preaching and reading the Bible in public. A pastrycook was recently jailed for not cooking a cake for a homosexual wedding.
4. Judicial litigation and monetary fines. In Australia a Christian is an easy target for litigation by homosexuals for so-called ‘hate speech’ which is really just publicising what God’s Word says about the issue. Christians have been fined in this country for refusing to allow homosexuals to book their denominational camp, and for publicly speaking out against Muslim terrorism in the Koran.
5. Slanderous accusations. An interesting feature of the final three types of persecution on this list is that they are often perpetrated by so-called ‘Christians’ themselves. The blogger Bill Meuhlenberg for example regularly gets false accusations from other Church-goers because of his courageous but truly Biblical stances on abortion and homosexuality.
6. Hateful comments. Being called unloving, hateful, intolerant, bigoted and narrow reveals exactly the same behaviour in those doing the criticising. Persecution has a way of turning the truth into lies and evil into good.
7. Lack of lawful support. There is supposedly freedom of speech in Australia for everyone and not only Andrew Bolt has discovered that this country’s justice is not about truth. Christians are persecuted here if they disagree publicly with the homosexual agenda and are not protected adequately by the law if they are charged with what some person may perceive as an insult even if it is not personally directed.
It is vital that Christians continue to speak out against these injustices and in favour of our Saviour’s life, death, His sacrifice for sin, His command for repentance and His principles for living, but also important that we join together to support those who are suffering the worst of the persecutions happening at present.