What do we in the First World do with the bible’s promise of persecution? This is not the persecution of sickness, or disobedient kids, or only having 1 house and 3 cars. It is not the persecution of accumulated debt or anxiety or age. The bible’s promise of persecution is the promise that this world and those in it will attack, demean, and attempt to stop us from sharing our message of God’s Kingdom and grace. And this is a problem for us in America.
When was the last time you were persecuted like this for your faith? Persecution is seldom an issue for us, and so we go to great lengths to find it. We claim politicians and liberal media and fundamentalists and popular culture are persecuting us by disagreeing with our message. But disagreement is not persecution. Who among us has lost our job ONLY because of our faith? Been attacked physically ONLY because of our faith? Lost something of value ONLY because of our faith? This is persecution, and we in American suburbia do not know it personally.
Is the lack of persecution because of “American religious freedom”? Is it because God has protected us? Is it because we have slyly gone about our subversive message of the coming Kingdom “off the radar”? Or might it be more likely that we are simply no threat to our persecutors because we are not spreading the message with any effectiveness or enthusiasm? Persecution comes when people don’t like what we are doing, as was the case in most every early church of Paul’s day. But today our churches are far more likely to be aiding and abetting our cultural forces, our financial idols, and anyone who would persecute us.
Does the church today have the courage to take the stand to which we are called and live so differently than the world around us that we draw attention to ourselves? Are we willing to speak the truth of God’s grace in such a way that we become a threat to both the society around us that wants our devotion and the Organized Religious Leaders who want the status quo?
Are we willing to stand for Jesus at work, school, neighborhood, church, and family even if this means persecution?