More Christians have suffered for their faith in twentieth century than in any other time in church history. Persecution watchdog group Open Doors released a report in 2014 of countries where believers in Jesus Christ are most heavily persecuted. There has been genocide of Christians in Iraq and unfortunately the West has stood by and let it happen. According to Michael Snyder’s report,
In areas where we spent hundreds of billions of dollars and where thousands of precious American lives were sacrificed, churches are regularly being bombed, Christians are being brutally beheaded, and laws have been passed to make it illegal for a Muslim to convert to Christianity.
If we were not even able to provide the most basic of liberties and freedoms to the people living in those nations, what in the world did we actually accomplish by ‘liberating’ them? Just look at what has happened in Afghanistan…….
We find a similar story in Iraq. It is estimated that before the invasion, there were up to 2 million Christians living in Iraq. Now that number is down to less than 450,000….
Why is the media being so quiet…..? Those carrying out this persecution of Christians in Syria are being directly funded and aided by the governments of the United States and Saudi Arabia.”
And of course it is not just in the Middle East where this kind of persecution of Christians is taking place.
Boko Haram…….has attacked more than 700 churches in Nigeria over the past seven years, and this has resulted in a massive exodus of Christians from northern Nigeria to southern Nigeria……..The same could be said for Christians in the country of Libya. The Obama administration likes to brag about how it got rid of Qaddafi and “liberated” Libya, but now al-Qaeda is in control of much of the country and things are much worse for Christians than ever before……
Should we meet force with force?
In light of all what is happening to Christians in these countries, should Christians defend themselves or fight for those we love if we are persecuted and killed. If our enemies attack the life and liberty of our brethren or if gangsters attack children or Nazis burn Jews? Should we meet force with force?
For instance in Pakistan, Christians who make up only 2 percent of the country’s population, beat and burned to death two suspected terrorists during the riots on the streets. Christians have been the targets of persecution and have suffered a number of attacks for their faith. Because of this rising global threat, some mega-churches in the U.S have gone as far as setting up state-of-the-art surveillance security cameras in their churches. According to a recent CBN report (see video below):
Of the many churches in Memphis, Tennessee, the largest is Bellevue Baptist Church. Founded in 1903, it has since grown in membership to almost 30,000 people. Andy Willis, who heads up security at the church, has the monumental job of keeping this large congregation safe………A camera system that constantly monitors and records activities on campus is extremely important……They are not very expensive, and the thing that you get is the protection in a liability situation that you won’t have if you don’t have it……
Willis told CBN News that Christians need to trust God, but be prepared.
The biggest thing that makes me cringe when I talk to other churches about security is they will say, “We don’t have security; we’re just praying that nothing happens…. It’s important for us to understand that while we are to trust God, God has a big part for us to play in His plan…..
One of the resources that helps Bellevue prepare is church security consultant Tim Miller, a former Secret Service agent. Miller said the threat against churches is rising worldwide:
Violence against Christians is rampant around the world……It hasn’t necessarily touched us at the level it has other places, but if we think we’re immune from that, we’re sadly mistaken……We will begin as a nation to experience that same level of violence…..And actually the methodology we’re seeing today, that same methodology is coming to the United States. They question for us is, are we prepared to address it?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer is quoted to have said that, “it is not only my task to look after the victims of madmen who drive a motorcar in a crowded street, but to do all in my power to stop their driving at all.” Bonhoeffer came to see life “from the perspective of those who suffer.” which cost him his life. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. (John 15:13).
As he sifted through the various reasons why they had to kill Hitler and bring down the Nazi government, Bonhoeffer spoke to them of the example of Jesus Christ. Jesus had willingly risked his life defending the poor and outcasts of his society—even at the cost of a violent death.
When the Lord Jesus instructed the disciples on how they were to travel, He told them to take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money, and not to have two tunics (see Luke 9:3). But then later on toward the end of Luke’s gospel, He said, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one” (Luke 22:36).
We again learn from the Gospel of Luke that when Jesus was arrested, Peter and the other disciples asked Jesus whether they should fight because they had come with their swords. John records that Simon Peter struck the servant of the High Priest and cut off his ear. (John 18:10) When his ear was struck off, Jesus said “No more of this.” and He said, ‘Permit even this.’ And He touched his ear and healed him warning His followers that all who draw the sword will die by the sword (Luke 22:51; Matthew 26: 52)
But what did He mean when He said “no more of this”? Some biblical historians tell us that when people of that day where traveling from city to city, they had to carry a sword in order to fend off robbers. So when Jesus sent his disciples, He warned them to be prepared to defend themselves when appropriate. This could mean that the disciples were using the swords to defend themselves before Jesus was arrested, although the Bible doesn’t tell us. But Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath. Shall I not drink from the cup which My Father has given Me?” (John 18:11).
And Matthew also records that He said, “Do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53). All these Scriptures confirm that Jesus is in full control of everything that takes place in the world. Although it looked as if Satan was getting the upper hand in the situation, everything was happening according to God’s perfect plan.
Teaching about Revenge
Teaching about revenge, Jesus said, “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:38–39 NLT). The only way to overcome evil is to pray to Christ for strength to patiently endure aggression and let the evil person fall into the hands of Jesus; otherwise evil begets evil. The apostle Paul echoes and expands on the Words that came from the lips of Jesus when he says,
Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, “says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12: 17-21)
“The only way to overcome our enemy is by loving him…..This commandment to love our enemies and forgo revenge will grow even more urgent in the holy struggle which lies before us…..” Writes Bonhoeffer in his classic book, The Cost of Discipleship. The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once said that,
Christianity is not difficult to understand: “Love your enemies is so simple that even a child can understand it. No, what is difficult is to put it into practice. Christian scholarship is the Church’s invention to defend itself against the Bible.
But again, how can somebody justify an attack on your family or your flock? Am I not in a position to defend myself and those that the Lord has entrusted to me? Or what would you do if someone held a gun to your head and told you to deny Jesus Christ and bow down to an idol or he would kill you? There can only be one answer to all these questions: “I don’t know.”
During the era of the early church, thousands of Christians lost their lives because they would not confess two words “Caesar is Lord.” They understood that words have serious consequences. You might remember the story of a courageous young 17 year Christian lady, Rachael Scott. She was one of the 13 people who were killed at Columbine High School.
On April 20, 1999, armed students began shooting people in Rachel’s high school campus. According to eye witnesses, Rachael was shot twice in the legs and fell to the ground. Moments later, one of the shooters came, lifted her head and asked her: “Do you believe in God?” These shooters would take her life if she said yes, and probably kill her if she said no.
Rachael knew her words would have grave consequences. But without hesitation, Rachel said, “You know I do!” One of the boys responded by shooting her in head and saying “Then go be with Him.”How did she know that these shooters knew that she believed? According to one of the websites dedicated to the Columbine High School Massacre:
One of the shooters, Dylan Klebold, had known Rachel since kindergarten and had even been the sound tech for a talent show she performed in 1998. Ironically, when the sound broke down, it was Dylan who saved the performance by hooking up a reserve tape deck. Rachel had been performing a mime dance “Watch the Lamb” which portrayed Simon of Cyrene, who carried Jesus cross along part of the Via Dolorosa. That same mime dance was later performed behind her coffin during her funeral.
Polycarp, one of the early church fathers, faced martyrdom in a Roman arena with wild beasts. The proconsul urged him to renounce his faith in Christ, but to no avail. Finally the Roman official threatened, “If you despise the wild beasts, I will cause you to be consumed with fire, unless you repent (change your mind).”
Polycarp replied, “You threaten that with fire which burns for a season and after a little while is quenched: for you are ignorant of the fire of the future judgment and eternal punishment, which is reserved for the ungodly. Polycarp had already given up himself to die and meet His Creator; he was only seeking the salvation of his executioner. That is the power the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Rachel and Polycarp both received a martyr’s crown from Jesus Christ. The question is, what would you have said or done under such circumstances?
Every one of us would like to think that he has the strength of conviction to die for my beliefs. But that’s very nice in theory. We don’t know what we are really made of until we have faced this test and passed it or failed it. There is saying that I read somewhere which goes like this: “Don’t trust yourself until the day you die.”
Our hearts may be willing to die, but our flesh will always seek to protect and save itself. Ask the apostle Peter and the other disciples who all fled when the time had come for them to stand with Jesus Christ. It is only when the love of Holy Spirit has completely overtaken you that you can obey God rather than men, even at the point of certain death. Flesh and blood cannot hold out the attacks of Satan. Jesus says we should rely on the Holy Spirit in the hour of darkness.
Strength from the Holy Spirit
The last question Jesus was asked before He left the earth was, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6) The disciples also continually wondered about His kingdom, when it would come and what their role would be in it. They probably thought that the Messiah would be an earthly king who would free Israel from Roman power. But the kingdom Jesus spoke about was a spiritual kingdom established in the hearts and lives of believers. He replied:
It is not for you to become acquainted with and know what time brings [the things and events of time and their definite periods] or fixed years and seasons (their critical niche in time), which the Father has appointed (fixed and reserved) by His own choice and authority and personal power. But you shall receive power (ability, efficiency, and might) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends (the very bounds) of the earth. (Acts 1:7–8 AMP)
Jesus was saying that the Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for us to know. He reiterated what He said in Matthew 24:36, namely, that no one knows the day or hour of His return.
The power of the Holy Spirit as promised in Acts 1:8 will be needed to provide courage. Whoever is ashamed of the Lord in times when Christians are not threatened is more likely to deny Him in a situation that may end with loss of freedom or life.
That is why the Lord said …..Then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. (Matthew 24:10) Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:11-12 NKJV)
Most of us Christians in the West and around the world have a counterfeit faith which gives the Lord conditions that if He rewards us with wealth, health and heaven, then we will serve and obey Him. In other words we want to serve Him but still retain much of our comforts. We make demands of God and perform good deeds to earn His acceptance and blessing.
The church has to a great extent forgotten that genuine surrender is where you have to offer your life unconditionally to God with humility and repentance regardless of whether it will cost you your life. We can only count the cost and endure because of our love and intimacy with Him, and only enabled to do so by the inner power of the Holy Spirit. In his book Persecution: It Will Never Happen Here? Jan Pit says:
Only Christians who draw their strength from the Holy Spirit will be prepared to live and suffer for God and will remain steadfast. They will refuse to serve the world government and world religion; even though they know that their obedience to God will mean persecution, suffering, and perhaps even death.
As we’ve noted previously, on the eve the crucifixion, when the real clash came with the powers of darkness, it was only Jesus Christ who stood. Every one of the disciples failed in that hour of darkness—in spite of all their surrenders, vows and devotion to the Master.
And looking into the future years—the darkness of the last days of this age, the final contest between heaven and hell for the kingdoms of this world, it could be only One Person Who is sufficient for this dark period, and He is the glorious Third Person of the Godhead- the Holy Spirit in those hearts whom He is able to indwell.