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Christianity Under Attack: The Ongoing Persecution of Christians

“Christianity is under attack!” I have heard that exclamation from the pulpit many times over my 50+ years on this earth. It certainly is. Of course Christians have been under attack for thousands of years – as many years as the name of Christ has been known so that the word “Christian” could exist. Christ himself suffered unspeakable persecution, ending with his own death on the cross about 2000 years ago.

To be fair, Christians have done some attacking as well. The Bible book of Joshua recounts some of these events, such as the account in Joshua 8:23-25: “But they took the king of Ai alive and brought him to Joshua. When Israel had finished killing all the men of Ai in the fields and in the wilderness where they had chased them, and when every one of them had been put to the sword, all the Israelites returned to Ai and killed those who were in it. 25 Twelve thousand men and women fell that day—all the people of Ai.”

Then of course there were the Crusades. Crusades to restore Christian control of the Holy Land were fought over a period of nearly 200 years, spanning the years between 1095 and 1291. The purpose initially stated for the Crusades in this period was the recapture of Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Muslim rulers. Whether these acts of aggression were actually undertaken on behalf of God has been a subject of debate for almost a century now. No one knows exactly how many embarked on the Crusades, or how many were killed. We only know that the impact was so profound as to be widely known a thousand years later.

Today, Christian missionaries find themselves under attack just as they have been over the last two centuries. The attacks are widespread and brutal. If you’d like a sobering view, simply Google the words “missionaries attacked”; you’ll get more than enough evidence of this condition. Open Doors actually compiles a list annually of the Top 50 Countries in terms of persecution of Christians. But the list of contemporary attacks on missionaries is widespread and unpleasant. Ten missionaries killed in Afghanistan, a dozen Christians injured in a attack in Chhattisgarh, two missionaries attacked and one of them murdered in Mexico, eleven missionaries attacked in Haiti, four missionaries attacked and badly beaten in India, an elderly missionary couple attacked, badly beaten, and one of them raped in Kenya. All of these stories appear in the first two pages of search engine responses.

From a Christian perspective, this is absolutely to be expected. The examples of the apostles and early followers of Christ are a menu of torture and murder – everything from being stoned to death to being beheaded. And as I mentioned earlier, there is the example of Jesus Christ Himself. The Bible makes two things on this subject perfectly clear:

  1. It is the commanded duty of all Christians to go out into the world, teaching others about Christ and winning converts. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus commands all of us as Christians to: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
  2. We’re going to get persecuted, and may as well expect that right from the outset. Romans 8:35-36 tells us: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, ”FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; ?WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” Certainly, the Apostle Paul understood this clearly. In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, he tells us: Paul tells us: “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness ” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” Now there is a guy with a great attitude! The late Norman Vincent Peale could have taken some serious lessons from the Apostle Paul in positive thinking!

So that’s it in a proverbial nutshell. Those of us who identify ourselves as Christians have been ordered into missionary service by the One we profess to follow; Jesus Christ. Period. We have not been ordered to become bakers, bankers, builders, or boarding house managers. Nope. Much as we like to say things like: “I’ve been called to be a stock broker”, or “I’ve been called to be a plumber”, (from a biblical perspective) it’s nonsense.

Of course I get arguments all the time about the impracticality of this approach. If all Christians followed the example of the true disciples – people like Peter in the New Testament who dropped his fishing nets where he stood and followed Christ – who would feed and clothe us, and provide food and shelter for our children? I’m guessing here, but if God is as good as His Word, I think He might be willing to do that for believers who stepped out on faith and followed Him now just as He did 2,000 years ago. It’s a huge step, I know – I certainly have not taken it. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. When I think about what would happen if every man, woman, and child who is a professing Christian just dropped everything and went out into the mission field, doing exactly what Christ commanded all of us to do, it really does make me wonder how the world would change. It would be – well whatever the positive term for “cataclysmic” is. But we’d continue to get the stuffings beaten out of us in the process. The Bible also makes that clear as a bell.

Now here is the part of all this that is a real puzzler for me: In Mark 10:29-30, Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.” Here again, this is Jesus speaking directly in the book of Mark to those who follow Him. He is promising in plain English (actually plain Hebrew in those days) that those of us who follow Him as He has commanded us to do in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) are going to come out of that process even in this lifetime with ten times as many family members and material goods as we lost in that process. Not to mention eternal life in the hereafter. I know of a number of missionaries who have lost their lives, lost their spouses, lost their children, and ended their careers and their lives virtually penniless. I don’t know of any who profited 100 fold in this life (“this present age”) as Jesus promised in Mark 10:29. What am I missing here? I still believe in Jesus Christ: I want the reader to make no mistake about that. There are many things that I do not understand, and I continue to simply accept those on faith. I understand that my (very) finite understanding will never comprehend all the mysteries of God. But there are a number of places where statements and promises are made in the Bible which do not seem to me to be supported by the evidence, and this is one of them.

What do you think?

2 Responses to “Christianity Under Attack: The Ongoing Persecution of Christians”

  1. Marie Luft says:

    I have no argument with your argument :)- except to say that it just might be that our American missionaries might be persecuted and killed simply because they are Americans … just as our Peace Corps people are being mistreated. A lot of people around the world simply do not like us.

    • Bill Duncan says:

      Certainly some truth to that – however, these attacks are being perpetrated on Christian missionaries from the UK and other countries as well. I think it is less a function of anti-Americanism than anti-Christianity, and is of course completely consistent with the predictions made in Scripture as well as the experience of Christ’s followers in the early church, described in the New Testament.

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