A Christian is killed every six minutes. In 2016, 90,000 Christians lost their lives for their faith and 600 million Christians globally, were prevented from practicing their faith. But in spite of all this, Christ encourages us:
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.” – Matthew 5:11-12
As the Bible predicts, the scale, coverage and ferocity of persecution is not going to decrease. Rather as society moves farther away from God, the scale and ferocity will increase, and as it does, we are still to share God’s free gift of salvation, stand for Christ and reach out to the world in love.
As I take a look at the rising level of persecution that Christians face today (by society, governments, business, extremist groups etc) I am soberly reminded that standing for Christ today, publicly, and unashamedly is going to come at a cost. To share the gospel in love and point others to salvation is going to come at a cost. To tell others that as followers of Christ, we are sinners saved by grace and they too can be saved by grace, will cost you. To stand upon the word of God and proclaim in love what the bible says about godly lifestyle, will cost you. It may cost you your job, it may cost you your family and friends, your comfort, it may cost you financially and it may even cost you your life.
But make no mistake, it will cost you.
We now have “snake-oil salesmen preachers” worsening the situation – instead of pointing people to Christ, preaching the purpose and cost of following Christ, they are deceiving many with promises of wealth, prosperity, success and manufacturing falsified miracle.
Instead of unashamedly preaching the gospel, preaching against sin, showing people Christ’s free gift of salvation, encouraging holiness and sounding the alarm against hell and the return of Christ – they now deceive countless into believing that God exists for man, instead of man existing for the purpose of God. They are keeping people focused on the things of this world that will one day pass away instead of things of God that have eternal consequences.
In a world where God is being pushed out at an alarming rate, where good has become evil, where evil has not only become good but is abounding faster than we realise, where there is deliberate and concerted pressure to silence the gospel from just about every quarter – I sometimes find myself being tempted to “dumb-down” my faith, to “play it safe”, not to offend, and to blend in…
Then I ask myself,
“what is offensive about a God that so loved His own creation that He laid down His own life for them so that they can be in relationship with Him for eternity, even though they have turned their backs to Him?”,
“what is offensive about Christ saving us from eternal separation from God and offering us the free gift of eternal relationship with Him by offering up His own life in place of our own?
“what is offensive about God wanting to save mankind from sin and bondage and offer them peace and freedom?”
“what is there to be ashamed of about the gospel, because after all in Paul’s own words in Romans 1:16, For I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes”
“what is offensive about peace, salvation and freedom?”
“what is offensive about the love of God?”
Then God in his infinite mercy reminds me in my moment of weakness that I, like every human being ever created will have to stand before Him one day and give an account – did I boldly stand for Him before men, or did I deny Him before men? Did I point people to Him or did I shy away because I feared persecution?
Then God in his infinite mercy reminds me in my moment of weakness, that He will be my strength. That the boldness to share the gospel, stand upon His word and stand for Him in the face of persecution, comes from Him and Him alone. It will not come from my strength or my own courage but from Him.
Then God in his infinite mercy reminds me in my moment of weakness that no one will sneak into heaven without scars.
We will stand before Him one day with scars that bear testament to our allegiance to Him. We will stand before Him with scars that are evidence of persecution for standing for Him, boldly and unashamedly, in a world that is turning its back on Him.
But our God, in our deepest struggles never leaves us without encouragement. As Christ encourages us in Matthew 10:22,
“And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved”. If we endure to the very end, we will be saved.
God also understands our humanity, He understands our struggles and He understands our weakness. But He still expects us to stand for Him, inspite of the cost to us.
But when we choose to stand for Him, we must rely on Him and Him alone for strength. We dare not do it in our own strength.
When the time comes for us to love those who persecute us, we cannot do it in our own strength. Only His. He will be our strength and we are more than conquerors through Christ who first loved us.
No one gets into heaven without scars. No one.
You don’t get scars by blending in. You get scars by standing up, standing out and standing for Christ, and Christ alone.
– Femi Adebanji