Talking about what no one else is talking about Philippians 1.27-30
'Ever notice what's not mentioned in the news? Maybe, maybe not.
Well there was a reason Paul said, "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." That was a big "whatever" - in the first century under the fist of Rome, but even bigger it turns out - in 2018.
But first, Paul continues his thought, "whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved-and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have." Philippians 1.27-30
Friend, I propose we talk about what no one else is talking about - at least in the news in the West anyway . . . persecution. Persecution of Christ followers. There, I said it.
Take a look at what Newsweek wrote last month, "The persecution and genocide of Christians across the world is worse today "than at any time in history..."Not only are Christians more persecuted than any other faith group, but ever-increasing numbers are experiencing the very worst forms of persecution."1
The West does not talk about it because it is ugly, and let's face it, for the most part, persecution does not touch our lives or affect us personally. I have experienced only very mild persecution for my faith, and that was more like social rejection. One example--one of my sons was scorned at school because his mom led Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and 'she was trying to proselytize the whole high school'. It led to a physical altercation. Nothing like what is happening across the water.
It would probably not surprise you that North Korea is the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian. "It is illegal to be a Christian in North Korea and Christians are often sent to labor camps or are killed if they are discovered."2 Some 50,000 Christians are languishing in prison or labor camps for their faith in the dictator-driven country.
How is it possible that in 2018 there are at least 50 countries where it is illegal to be a Christian?? Muslim extremism is the greatest threat. In Somalia, which ranks second for persecution, Open Doors International says people even suspected of being a Christian in the lawless country can be murdered on the spot. "The militant Islamist group al-Shabaab, which is highly active in the East African nation, has made making Somalia "free of all Christians" one of its missions."4 Afghanistan is number three in terms of danger for believers, followed by Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen and Eritrea.
On my recent trip to Israel, Father Gabriel Naddaf addressed our group and told us of the Arab cleansing going on in Middle Eastern countries surrounding Israel. Before the war in Syria, there were 2 million Christians; now about 200,000 left; in Iraq, there were 4 million Christians; now 300,000 left. And in the town where Jesus was born . . . Bethlehem? Until 1995, 20% of the population of Bethlehem was Christian; now just two percent.
All this to say, 'Yes, Paul . . . you were right. Christians would be persecuted; many would suffer and die for their faith in Jesus.'
I went to the morning worship service at my church this morning with all of these thoughts pinging in my brain, causing my heart to ache. I know that Jesus said, "If they persecuted me, they will persecute you,"5
but it is difficult to square the 'whys and wherefores' with the 'who's' and the 'what' they are facing.
Christians are suffering and dying, being driven from their homes, denied jobs because they will not denounce their faith in Jesus Christ.
I am moved by this statement of John Piper:
"God graciously gives his people suffering and faith
so that they might enjoy magnifying Christ to their adversaries
through the fearlessness of faith and humble love to each other."
Friend, we must not be ignorant. Let us first be people of prayer, and educate ourselves as to other ways of helping. (The sources below are good ways of starting.) And then, let us not allow apathy to grow in our own lives of faith - we who live in freedom to practice our faith!
God is on the throne. Of that, I am sure.
May that cause us to be people of love,
compassion, faith and truth,
committed to sharing all four with other people.
1 - "Christian Persecution and Genocide is Worse Now Than in Any Time in History", Newsweek, Cristina Maza, January 4, 2018.
2 - "North Korea Tops List of 50 Most Dangerous Countries for Christians," CBN News, January 10, 2018.
4 - "The 50 Countries Where You Cannot Be a Christian," Sunday Express, UK, Harvey Gavin, November 8, 2017.
5 - John 15.20