Americans have a history of being attacked. We have fought 3 wars on our own soil. We have had a foreign nation, Japan, attack us at Pearl Harbor and plunge us into WWII. We have experienced attacks by Islamic terrorists on September 11, 2001 and several times since. The truth is that to be hit by an enemy is nothing new for Americans.
In the same way, Christians have experienced many hits as well. Certainly Jesus had to take blows continually in His ministry and the church that He built was no different. Almost right from the beginning of the church, Christians have had to deal with persecution and in the past few years, Christians in America have been seeing the clouds of oppression building. While it is hard to say that court decisions like the legalization of homosexual marriage are really Christian persecution, at least in comparison to what Christians in the 1st Century dealt with, when we see people of faith forced to pay fines or lose their businesses if they exercise their constitutional right to not participate in something that violates their faith, well, then there is no question that we are heading into dangerous territory. Even today, a congregation of the Lord’s church in Iowa is suing the state in Federal Court to keep the Iowa Civil Rights Commission from forcing them to perform homosexual marriage and also to allow people to use whichever bathroom they feel like using inside the church building. It is hard to imagine given our current culture that this kind of thing won’t continue.
Of course, the Bible promises that all who wish to live Godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12). We are going to face persecution: It’s not a question of “if” but “when”. The real question is whether or not Christians will stand firm against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:11) – and make no mistake, a government that wants to force such immorality upon God’s people is doing the devil’s work. What will we do when the government says that we can’t preach or teach passages of the Bible that the government doesn’t like? What will we do when the public schools openly teach our children that good is evil and evil is good? What will Christians do when we must decide whether to follow Scripture or lose our business?
While such scenarios sound absolutely frightening, we must remember that God’s people have faced worse before…in fact, much worse. Right after the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7, a “great persecution” broke out against the church. Christian men and women were dragged out of their homes and forced to denounce their faith in Jesus. Those who refused suffered greatly. Families were separated. Both mothers and fathers were thrown in jail. Many were beaten. Many had their property confiscated. Many were killed. Such actions seem impossible for us to fathom, but in the days after Pentecost, such persecution likely seemed unthinkable to the first Christians as well.
The early Christians were being hit by enemies of the cross, led by a zealot named Saul of Tarsus. Yet, how did these beleaguered brethren respond? “Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4, NKJV). The faith of these heroes was amazing! They already perfectly understood what Jesus would later say in His letter to the church in Smyrna in Revelation 2:10, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Even if it would cost them their lives, these early saints were not going to stop doing what the Lord commanded them to do. If the world hit them, they would continue to the spread of the gospel!
None of us looks forward to having to make such a choice, but it is comforting to know the promise we have that God will reward us if we stand against persecution. Christians need to prepare themselves and their children for that day. We need to be praying for and supporting brethren who are enduring. And we must never lose sight of the great words of Peter in Acts 5:29, “We ought to obey God rather than man!”
God help us to stand for Him, His truth and His Word.