I live in America. The greatest persecution I have experienced so far comes when people complain about my conservative views deeply rooted in my faith in Jesus. Sometimes the complainers are loud, or plenteous in their angry words. Sometimes they get television time and rant about their intolerance of what my faith declares. Sometimes they say they want to kill people like me.
My brothers and sisters in Christ living in Iran, Uganda, Sudan, Turkey, Central Africa and many other countries are experiencing much more than this. They are being cut into pieces with swords and bayonets. Many pregnant women have had their wombs cut open and their babies chopped up with knives. Many of my brothers have been doused with gasoline and set on fire. Many have been beheaded, beaten, and bludgeoned to death. Many are running for their lives, and many are imprisoned in inhumane conditions.
Granted, all violence begins with ideas, and in my country, the ideas of wiping my “kind” out can certainly turn into actions at any time. For this moment in time, however, I have been granted a tremendous privilege from God to publicly declare my faith, and live it out publicly without the consequences of death.
I think of the early church who was persecuted so heavily by the Roman government. I think of those burned alive as garden torches for Nero’s landscape designs. I think of those who were imprisoned until the time that they could be thrown into the arenas with hungry lions for the public’s entertainment. There were the children…the young lives dressed in the fresh skins of sheep who were sent out to the arenas to be chased and devoured by packs of hungry dogs.
I have to, over and over again, remember that the faith that I carry as a flame inside of me isn’t an “idea” or a code of moral living. I carry the passion of one who has found Jesus to be everything He claimed to be. I believe He was born of a virgin, died a criminal’s death as penalty for my sin, and was resurrected after three days with all authority over death, hell and the grave, and because He lives, I too will live even after my body dies. My faith is a flame passed on from my mother who received it from her mother and aunt, who received it from parents, relatives, and friends. They carried the truth that continues to be the Truth that sets all free. Because this Truth is Jesus, and He is not dead.
Every government in history has had their opportunity to wipe out the Christians in their countries, and many almost succeeded. But this flame keeps passing on!! While I hear of my brothers and sisters being decimated in other countries, my prayer becomes, “God may my flame burn even brighter to carry what they carried. As long as I am living, God, may it be said of me that I carried the flame of faith honoring those who have gone before, and for the generations yet to be born. May I pass the flame faithfully from my life to my children, and to my neighbors, friends, and enemies.”
32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms,administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging,and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
Remembering the persecuted church today, and praying that my life will carry their flame.