Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Blessing of Persecution

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
-- Matthew 5:10

At the time of the Boxer Rebellion, 230 Christian missionaries and 23,000 Chinese Christians were killed in China. In the years following, the number of Christians in China grew to 70,000. Then communist China really cracked down, outlawing Christianity and expelling all Christian missionaries. The number of Christians in China grew 100 fold to 70 million.

In our nation there is some concern among Christians about religious freedoms and the state recognition of Christian expression. These concerns are, for the most part, justified. Arguably. But there are many overreactions, many voicing of concerns that belie the reality of the God who is sovereign over everything, including nations, kings, and laws.

But let's not presume to think we are presently persecuted. In Matthew 5:11, Jesus says, "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account." Persecution is a blessing. Either he meant that or he didn't. The Beatitudes are proclamations, not commands, so we don't need to seek persecution. It's not the blood of the one with a martyr complex that is the seed of the church. Perhaps socialism is creeping into America. We should be concerned about this and talk about it, against it even.

But let's also not assume that persecution would be the worst thing to befall us. It could be, actually, that persecution, should it come, is the best thing to happen to the American church.


Roberta said...

Persecution is painful but we either turn to God or turn away. It is a purifying fire. I pray that Jesus will come back before we experience persecution in the U.S. Because of persecution in the early church Christianity was spread. God is in control and we can trust Him.

Pete Scribner said...

Though we don't like to talk about it a lot, the Bible makes it pretty clear that the Christian life will be marked by suffering. In preparing to preach on Romans 8:12-17 this week I've been contemplating the implications of Paul's words that we are "fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him."