This week, Edith writes:
Why do people persecute Christians?
The reasons can be varied, but most basically boil down to three things: (1) Fear, (2) Inner Wounds, and (3) Empty Religion.
#1) Persecution Fueled by Fear
This type of persecution is often political in nature. Consider the government of China. Communism requires that everyone live for the state, which means all other governments must be denounced. So when someone comes along talking about a superior Kingdom, fear stirs in the hearts of political leaders who see their people slipping through their grip. Submission must be demanded, and Christian “instigators” are sought out in hopes of silencing the subversion.
This is the same motivation that drove King Herod to kill all the boys under the age of two in and around Bethlehem. When he heard that the new “King of the Jews” had been born, he sought to end the child’s life before his own rule could be threatened.
Not all fear-based persecution is political in nature, but this tends to be the most common form.
#2) Persecution Fueled by Inner Wounds
Some people have been hurt by Christians in the past. As a result, they tend to lash out at the Church with criticism, insults, slander, gossip, hatred, and so forth.
Suppose someone walked up to you and flicked you in the arm with their finger. How would you respond? You might be a little annoyed, but you’d probably just go on with your day. Now suppose you had an injury to your arm–a bruise, an open wound, or a broken bone. Now how would you respond?
In the same way, people who have been wounded by Christians often respond disproportionately to contact from other Christians. The slightest “touch” from the Church stirs the person to react emotionally and lash out. Depending on the depth of the hurt, sometimes the mere sight or thought of some Christians can stir a person toward revenge.
This is why it is so vital that we express only the love of Christ in this world. We must be above reproach. True, if every Christian had perfected the whole “love” thing, no one would be wounded by the Church in the first place. But we have to work with the people we have. There are wounded people in the world whether we like it or not, and we need to be loving, gentle, and peace-loving as we reveal Christ to them.
#3) Persecution Fueled by Empty Religion
James 1:27 talks about “pure religion” that God accepts, which is to care for orphans and widows and to keep yourself from being defiled by the world. In other words, if there’s anything you’re going to practice religiously, let it be those things!
This, however, is not what I’m addressing. On the contrary, I’m dealing here with empty religion–the kind that is utterly devoid of healthy relationship with God.
For many of us, our minds go instantly to other religions–particularly those who are persecuting Christians regularly these days. Christians are persecuted by much of the Islamic world, certain sects of Hindus, and numerous tribal religions. But it goes beyond this. Christians are often even persecuted by other Christians. Even atheists can be called “religious.” All that matters for this definition to apply is that one is set in his or her ways and refuses to accept the fullness of life in Christ either out of arrogance, ignorance, or demonic influence.
Here’s how you can tell if someone (even yourself) is religious:
- Religious people are significantly offended whenever someone speaks against their particular expression of life (beliefs, morals, faith, political stance, culture, etc.);
- They are inwardly annoyed by any person who does not live in accordance with their morals, their views, or the beliefs of their religion;
- They spend more time lobbying against surface-level issues in society than they do examining inner issues of the heart;
- Within the church, they have excuses (or “false doctrines”) that explain away their lack of spiritual power or supernatural ability;
- They are not willing (or able) to share profound testimonies of what God has done in and through them;
- They avoid openly sharing about their current personal shortcomings and struggles with sin;
- They feel a little bit tense as they read any of the above six identifiers.
Are you religious? What about your church? What about your friends and family?
If you’re not religious, are you being persecuted? If any of your friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances are religious and they’re not persecuting you (or at least silently bothered by your actions), it’s probably because you’re not living a radical enough life! 2 Timothy 3:12 says that
everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
It’s time to live more dangerously and get radical about our Christianity! I’m not talking about being brash; I’m talking about being real. You’ll know it’s happening when people in the world are being saved, healed, and delivered (by God, through you) while the religious are offended by your actions.
If you want to live radically for Christ, expect persecution to come. It may be motivated by fear as you reveal the Kingdom authority of our Heavenly Father in a fallen world. It may be motivated by inner wounds as you rub elbows with the lost and bump into people who have been wounded by other Christians. And it may be motivated by religion as you live a life of passionate relationship with Jesus that flies in the face of empty, dead, and false religion.
Whatever the case, love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. It may cause you to wind up getting persecuted, but it will also carry you through it.