Ok, this will rub many of you the wrong way, but this has been something I’ve been believing for a LONG time. If it rubs you the wrong way or gets you mad or angry, then it’s probably for you.
First I’d like to tell you a true story:
Around 3 weeks ago, I arrived to one of my classes early and was listening to an older gentleman (mid 40’s – a student in my class) who was talking to my professor about how he was trying to look for a book that would help him on the paper that was due the following week. He went into detail about how he went to Barnes and Noble and was searching for it, but to no avail. He went up and asked the person at the help desk for some assistance in finding the book. At this point, the student made it VERY clear that the employee helping him was homosexual (although that is not the focus of this story); when the student told the employee the title of the book and what it was about, the employee scoffed and made some sort of remark about how he should go look for it at a “Christian bookstore.” But in spite their differing views, the employee went to the appropriate section of the store and attempted to find the book, but was unable to do so. As my fellow student and the employee were about to walk their separate ways, the employee made another demeaning remark against Christianity – as if to make fun of it.
Then the student said these words to my professor, and I’ll never forget for as long as I live: “Now I know what Christ meant when He said ‘You will be persecuted for My name.'”
America’s “Persecution Complex.”
I was in absolute SHOCK that this fellow student of mine said this! The thoughts running through my mind were, “you can’t actually be serious,” “good joke, funny guy,” as well as many others. But the sad fact is that this student represents how many American Christians think: because of the fact that someone disagrees with our faith, or they make fun of us because we believe in Christ, that they’re “persecuting us.”
What he experienced was not persecution – it was a disagreement! As Christians (and just human beings in general), we need to be able to converse with people. Disagreement and conversation go hand-in-hand and as long as there are people on this planet, then there will be both. The inability to have a conversation with someone who disagrees is a sign of immaturity and lack of knowledge and conviction about what you claim to believe. In today’s world of reason, logic and dialogue, you HAVE to be able to hold up a conversation about what you believe (I’m still learning to do this adequately).
Still don’t believe me? Still think that someone disagreeing with you is “persecution?” Sounds good. Try this:
Go and tell of this horrible “persecution” to Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani who has spent the past 3 years in prison for sharing is faith and running underground house churches. Or Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of Pastor Saeed Abedini, who is currently serving an 8-year sentence in Tehran for spreading the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Or Chinese Apostle Liu Zhenying AKA “Brother Yun” (You may know of his book The Heavenly Man – if not, I encourage you to read it) who spent years running from police and being imprisoned in the worst conditions imaginable. He was tortured and beaten because of the fact that he would not renounce his faith in Jesus Christ! Look at examples in the Bible: men like the Apostle Paul, Stephen the Martyr and many others were thrown into prison and eventually murdered because of their faith! EVEN JESUS! He was murdered because of what He was teaching. All of them also had one thing in common:
They conversed with those who disagreed. Yes, they actually had CONVERSATIONS with people who didn’t believe as they did. And when they were persecuted, they didn’t say a word about it – they accepted it and didn’t fight it. They knew that to die for Christ was gain. They didn’t run around yelling “PERSECUTION!” as many of us in America do.
Much of this post hasn’t been nice. I know that. We, as American Christians, need to come to understand that what we “endure” is not persecution, nor is it anything close. We’re the first to complain because our government puts pressure on us or society is disagreeing with the Truth. Too many of us are up in arms about it – but rather we should take the approach that Daniel took in Daniel 7:10 when he found out he was going to be thrown in the lion’s den:
“But when Daniel learned that the law [saying everyone can only worship the king of Babylon] had been signed, he went home and kelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.”
Instead of being up in arms, we should be down in our knees. We’re not being persecuted like Daniel, but we can pray like Daniel did. We can be mature people who don’t back down or “have our feelings hurt” when someone disagrees with what we believe.
Have a conversation. Who knows – maybe you’re the light God has sent to them.