What do you think of this comment?
"The history of the Christian movement demonstrates that the intensity of persecution is geared not to the moral level of the non Christians or persecutors, but to the intensity of the witness of the Christian community.... One wonders why Christians today get off so easily. Is it because unchristian Americans are that much better than unchristian Romans, or is our light so dim that the tormentors can't see it? What are the things we do that are worth persecuting?"
I agree with much of what is written - but quibble on the "who" when it comes to persecution. I believe that throughout recorded secular history, as well as in the New Testament, the true persecutors were the *religious* folks who were against true Christianity. Tthey only used to gov't to do their dirty work - or what they did not have enough power and control to accomplish
So - where does that put us today? We certainly can't claim that we are being persecuted - some of us get our feelings hurt from time to time over religious squabbles,
I have been looking back at the early Christian community to see what prompted so many problems for them, and so quickly. First we know they were immediately "stabbed in the heart" and on FIRE for this new life they chose. Well - strike one for us :) If anyone around us in 'on fire' we pretty much dismiss them as being too emotional and they make us pretty uncomfortable. "Oh well - he'll come down to earth soon." What a shame.
Secondly - we know they hung out together all the time - intertwining their lives on a daily basis - opening their home to their new 'family' members, sharing whatever was needed, just flat enjoying each other. But I wonder - did they keep their faith as a private affair - sharing openly only among their groups? No, it says that they continued going back to the temple - a place many of their friends and family still congregated - and tried to share their new life with folks still in bondage to special days and ways, do's and don'ts, rules and ceremonies.
What were the lives of the Christians like who fled the fall - as they spread out into the countryside? If that were to happen today, I bet we would 'set up shop' in a cave - stick with those we were comfortable with - and start a bible class for our cave members. But that is not what they did. Those folks spread out and took with them God's Freedom Message throughout their journey, following Jesus' message of "as you go into all the world - spread the Good News."
That sharing of Jesus with religious folks was the *downfall* for these people. UNreligious folks don't care about Christians - we don't affect their lives at all. It was the institutional big business, pomp and circumstance, 'my way or the highway' folks who reacted so strongly to Jesus and Paul, and who would be the persecutors today as well. Well, why aren't they after us? As the quote above says - it's not THEIR goodness that keeps them away from us - it's that we aren't spreading the word - they aren't being confronted with the true Jesus-life. Their boat is not being rocked.
I read something recently that really made me stop and think about this even more. It's from a TREMENDOUS book about the life of Jesus called, The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancy. In it, he tells of being invited to the White House to discuss Pres. Clinton's ever-waning popularity with evangelical Christians. 12 religious types had been invited and they each had 5 minutes to say whatever they wanted to Pres. and VP.
Here is part of what he WANTED to say:
"...I know you've heard from the Religious Right about the increasing secularization of our country. Prayer is no longer allowed in schools, and protesters against abortion are subject to arrest. Relax, sir. Government oppression gives Christians an opportunity to be persecuted.
Although Yancy is again blaming gov't for persecution - I think that is just the final blow. Big Business "Christians" who become confronted by those in the kingdom with the reality of a LIFE for God, no jhuman power and control, no special clothing or days, no man made creeds (whether written or unwritten) will again use the gov't's power to crush and defeat them.
Looking back again at those
early believers - there hasn't been a time in history that God's message
grew faster or that believers were so dedicated. We can't help but see
the correlation between that and the lives of persecution they lived.
Just as Yancy wanted to say to Clinton, "oppression gives Christianity an
opportunity to be persecuted." Opportunity? Do we believe