Let me tell you a story. A little less than 2000 years ago a few of the early Christian leaders had gotten themselves into trouble with some of the local authorities. You see, these fellas, known as the apostles, had been telling lots of people about this guy named Jesus and how he had done all sorts of miracles and taught all kinds of important teachings and especially how he had been executed and then raised from the dead and how he was Savior and Lord and the source of salvation. The local authorities were none to pleased with these apostles, especially because people were starting to listen to them and believe them so they arrested the apostles, and they flogged them, and they commanded them not to speak anymore in the name of Jesus. 

So how did the apostles respond? Did they hold a rally in support of freedom of religion and invite all kinds of famous preachers and politicians and use the hashtag #IStandSabbath to bemoan the fact that they were facing persecution for their beliefs? No. They did nothing of the sort at all. Acts 5:41-42 tells us exactly what they did. 

“Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching andpreaching that the Christ is Jesus.”

They didn’t go around whining that their religious liberty was being abused. They rejoiced. They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor at the name. And then they went and just kept doing the very thing they had been doing all along.

Fast-forward nearly two-thousand years. American Christians are all riled up and claiming persecution because the mayor of a city in Texas tried to subpoena some of their sermons regarding homosexuality (See details here, the subpoenas have since been dropped). In response, conservative Christians held a rally in Texas this past weekend called “I Stand Sunday” where Christian celebrities and politicians were invited to speak out against this perceived infringement on religious liberty (see one news story here). Now, to be clear, this is certainly a complex issue both legally and politically but that’s not what I want to deal with here. I just want to put a couple things in perspective.

1.) American Christians have no idea what persecution really is. Christians in the early church understood what persecution was. They went to jail and they were beaten and killed for their beliefs. Modern Christians in some other countries understand what persecution is. There are still places today where Christians are arrested and murdered just for being Christians; where they have to meet in secret at the risk of their very lives. We American Christians insult our brothers and sisters and our forebears when we claim that we are persecuted because a sermon is subpoenaed or a Christian baker has to bake cake for a homosexual couple.

2.) Religious liberty is a luxury, not a guarantee. God never promised Christian’s religious liberty or freedom from persecution. As a matter of fact, God promised the opposite (2 Timothy 3:12; John 15:18-20; 1 John 3:13)! Perhaps, instead of complaining when we face (genuine) persecution, we should be like the early Christians and rejoice!

3.) For the early church, persecution catalyzed church growth. Acts 8 describes how a persecution against the early church caused the believers who had congregated in Jerusalem to disperse to other places. Verse four tells us that those who were scattered went about preaching the word! In other words, our sovereign God was able to use persecution to advance his purposes.

Those are just a few of my thoughts, what do you think?

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