This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus. Rev 14 v12.
There exists in the West an increasing intolerance to the Church and to those who genuinely try to live and stand up for Christ. This is likely not a new thought for anyone who has kept their ear to the ground, but for those who have not, here are a few examples:
Gary McFarlane, Lillian Ladele, Shirley Chaplin, Nadia Eweida, Richard Page, Svetlana Powell, Keith Bullock, Tony Rollins, Caroline Petrie, Dr Richard Scott, Olive Jones, Duke Amachree, Andrew McClintock, Vince Pauline Matherick, Eunice Owen Johns, Dr Hans Christian Raabe, Philip Lardner, Chris Grayling, Peter and Hazelmary Bull, Fr Mark Morris, Tim Farron, Rocco Buttiglione, Sarah Kuteh, Dr David Mackereth, Felix Ngole.
Now, this is not persecution, certainly not as experienced by many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world. But this is how it begins.
Values that were once mainstream become marginalised, along with the people that hold them.
The ability of Christians to participate in the public square is diminished, as categories of professions become closed to those living for Christ. Legal, Medical, Teaching, Political, even Religious all become proscribed.
Christians and their beliefs are belittled, marginalised and mocked. Living your faith becomes controversial and not fit for polite society.
But it won’t stop there, as our nations are slouching back to the pagan conditions that Jesus’ first followers experienced. Bear in mind that our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the principalities and powers – and these powers hate Christians, because they hate Christ. And, knowing that their time is short, will do everything they can to hurt the Church.
By Christians, I am referring to those who will remain faithful to Christ, not those who accommodate themselves to the culture. To those that choose to bow the knee, and offer the pinch of incense in order to save their careers, their standing, their family…perhaps eventually their lives…to them Jesus had something to say:
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.
Matthew 16 v25.
Only pray that by the grace of God we will be found in the latter group and not the former.
Marginalisation, belittlement and mockery are merely a step on the way. We have seen from history that you cannot treat a people evilly until you have dehumanised them. Once they are isolated, made vulnerable, and regarded as unworthy of even basic consideration, then a persecution can truly begin.
Now, persecution will be only part of the story. Along with a time of persecution will come a time of revival. When we are forced out from behind our four walls, from our Christian ghettos, when the price of obedience becomes public opprobrium, we will no longer be able to hide and at last the Light will be made visible for those around us. Many will hate the Light – but some will be drawn to it. That will be our opportunity, perhaps an opportunity for one last great harvest.
Simply put – we will be sent to ‘the least of these’ as we will become ‘the least of these’.
Ultimately, persecution won’t stop until we have entered into Christ’s passion. Until we have been through that fiery furnace. Once the pressures of losing social standing, jobs, money and possessions have done their refining work, the remnant that remain faithful will likely have to follow Christ to Golgotha. Our very presence will have become an offence.
They came for the Jews, and they will come for us in the same way.
Why say this now? Because we must get prepared. Too easy we close our eyes to the changes around us, hoping that if something does happen, it won’t happen to us. We go to our Christian festivals, our Church gatherings, our meetings and we ignore the gathering storm around us. We hope it will pass us by.
The news, and the point of this word, is that it will not pass us by. The world where it was possible to be a comfortable Christian is passing, and we are all going to start to count the cost of following Christ. What will you be willing to sacrifice? Who, or what, is the God at the centre of your life? Upon what will you make your stand? Living Rock, or shifting sand?
That is the challenge before us now, may the Lord open our eyes to it.