I love America! I believe as US citizens, we still live in the greatest country in the world. I am not saying it is not without its historic and current faults; it isn’t. But, we are still the freest of any nation, and we should celebrate that freedom.
However, I also recognize that the freedom we, as the church, have enjoyed fades with every passing day. I am unsure of what the future holds, but if there is impending persecution, and I assume sooner or later there will be, I welcome it.
Anyone reading this may wonder why. Let me give a few Biblical reasons:
Jesus said we would be hated. In Matthew 10, as Jesus sends out his disciples into the world to minister he tells them plainly, “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake” (Matt. 10:21). He then goes on to state that if they are His followers, they are not greater than Him and, therefore, just as He has been vilified, they too would be slandered and even killed. However, they were not to fear those who could merely “kill the body,” but were to “fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell” (Matt. 10:28).
What Jesus predicted actually happened to the Apostles. The accounts in Acts show us clearly that the Apostles and the church suffered for their faith. Peter and the others boldly proclaimed the Good News and were told not to anymore, or they would face the consequences. In response, they said they “must obey God and not man” (Acts 5:29). Steven was killed for preaching the Good News (Acts 7). Luke then relays that the persecution became great and the church was scattered (Acts 8:1). Paul, himself, was a persecutor of the church who approved of these things and was converted only to eventually be persecuted for what he preached (Acts 8:3,9).
Our good deeds will be called evil. Peter, who himself had been persecuted, said we are to keep our “conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12). It should come as no surprise, then, that when we call out sin and seek to do good, we will be called evil and be reviled.
In light of these truths and many others found in Scripture, I welcome persecution. I welcome it for no other reason than the fact that it shows we are being faithful to the message of the Good News by which we have been justified and are being sanctified. In addition, in all of these instances, the church grew and flourished in spite of persecution. This is not the stuff of American church culture or “attractional churches,” but it is the stuff of the New Testament, and we should not be surprised by it.
Jesus calls us to “deny [ourselves] and take up [our] cross daily” (Luke 9:23). At the end of that path is most certainly death and, while it is true that we need to die daily to ourselves and our desires, that may come in ultimately dying in the wake of a wave of persecution for believing and preaching the truth of the Bible. Do you welcome persecution?