If you read the Bible at all, you know that one of the repeated themes in the New Testament is that Christians will face trouble in this world. While some folks would prefer that those passages go away, the reality is that because the world is fallen (that is, broken by sin) we are surrounded by struggles. How we deal with those struggles, and what we believe through them, reveals a lot about our faith.
One of the struggles for the early church was the persecution from Rome. Starting under Nero and continuing off and on through the reign of Diocletian, Christians were frequently turned into the scapegoats of the Roman Empire. They were arrested, tried, and often executed in horrific ways, including becoming fodder for the brutal Coliseum Games. Both 1 Peter and Hebrews were written to first century Christians who were facing the early days of the Roman persecution. They were being targeted for cruelty not because they had done anything offensive, but because they were in themselves offensive to the Empire. By merely being people who loved and worshiped one God above all others, and because they held a view of the world that wasn’t in step with the times, they were branded criminals and outlaws and treated as such.
We similar things in our present world. There are governments in place today that treat anyone who doesn’t bend the knee to their preferred philosophical and/or theological leanings as criminal. In other nations, the government either doesn’t know how or simply doesn’t wish to stop acts of violence against Christians. Either way, in certain countries, giving your life to Jesus often means forfeiting your life in this world.
Which brings me to the title for this post. I have heard some people advance the idea that the Christian faith is being persecuted here in America. That the changing cultural values of our nation mean that the Christian worldview is no longer welcome. You can Google “anti-Christian Obama administration” and come up with some interesting results.
But let’s be clear: what Christianity faces in America isn’t persecution. It’s prosecution. We are not being dragged out of our homes and killed because we believe in Jesus. We’re being targeted and teased in the media because we’re often jerks. We’re not in danger of being rounded up and killed, then buried in a mass grave; we’re unpopular because we have in the past acted less than Christ-like.
Persecution is when you are targeted because of who you are. Prosecution is when you’re targeted for how you behave.
Instead, the Christians that get attacked are Christians perceived as arrogant, bullying, loud, hypocritical, self-serving, self-righteous. And funny enough, they aren’t just attacked and condemned by secularists or other religions; they’re not just called out by a leftist media with an agenda; they’re called out by the very Word of God that they so loudly claim to believe in and represent!
I have no agenda with this, other than to call us back to lives that – ironically – lead to persecution. The history of the faith is that the people of God, living lives of godly obedience and service, have always become targets for persecution. It’s only when we move outside of that godly life and align ourselves with false gods (like money and political power) that we become targets of prosecution.
We aren’t told to go and seek the world’s contempt. Jesus didn’t command us to torment the world with the Gospel. We are commanded to go and make disciples, and to live quiet lives of obedience. The world will summon its hatred of us on its own – we don’t need to give them ammunition.
Globally, we have more martyrs for the faith than ever before; we don’t need manufactured martyrs to cheapen the power of those deaths.