Its hard to write about persecution when you’ve never been persecuted. When I wake up in the morning, I am not afraid for myself and my family being brutally beaten or killed for following Jesus. In fact, persecution is the last thing on my mind. Many of us are more concerned about having a good day for Jesus than dying for him; being more blessed than cursed; and making sure we’re getting the maximum output of Christianity, while doing the bare minimum in our faith. Persecution to American believers are: atheist getting upset at crosses being all over the place, people getting upset over us saying Merry Christmas rather than Happy Holidays, or worse, having the wrong political party in office. Lets be honest with ourselves, can we really define this as “persecution” when we still have the option to worship publicly on Sunday morning? I imagine our brothers and sisters around the world, and the ones who have gone before us, would consider what we go through as a walk in the park, and would take our “persecution” over theirs any day of the week.
For us, persecution is a dirty word because we don’t have it, nor do we want it. We don’t understand the concept, and we’re not sure what to do when we read Jesus saying, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. 5:10). The Beatitudes are not a strict way of life for “elite” Christians, but a promise of hope for those, who have or will be, marginalized by the world. So what happens to us, who are on the flip side of persecution? How will people in America want to know Jesus as their Savior, when a majority of Americans have the comfort of the world at their fingertips? When it comes down to it, we have to figure out a way to distinguish ourselves from the world, and even that can be tricky.
The “Kingdom Experiment” asked a very interesting question, “How does living the kingdom make us at odds with the current culture? Is there any way that current culture doesn’t contradict kingdom-living?” If we’re not careful, this question can be answered incorrectly, and can be the root cause to why Christianity is in such a mess. In my opinion, many of us will answer the first half of the question along the lines of “Kingdom living makes us at odds with current culture because what the Kingdom values isn’t what culture values.” Which will cause many of us to look at the second half of the question and answer no, and move right along. However, this second half of the question really made me think for a moment. Can Heaven and earth really share some of the same qualities? Do Christians emphasize the same values the world also values? Before you read what I came up with, pause for a moment and write down what you think many Christians emphasize and think about if people, who don’t know Christ as their Savior, emphasize the same thing too.
As a person, who has been following Christ for the past 10 years, there are some things I have noticed that have been largely emphasized at church: family, community, marriage, Easter, and Christmas, are some of the few. I believe people, who do not know Christ as their Savior, value these exact same things. Last time I checked, the world still thinks families are a good thing and should stick together; everyone stills enjoy having deep relationships with each other; couples aren’t getting married so they can get a divorce; and people, who believe and don’t believe, are still having Easter egg hunts, putting up Christmas trees, and giving each other Easter egg baskets and Christmas presents. In my opinion, family, marriage, community, the birth of Christ and his resurrection are all gifts God has allowed for us to share and enjoy.
So can the true reason why Christianity in America is so lifeless is because we have chosen to believe what God has meant for everyone to enjoy is only exclusively meant for us? Can the real reason why the world doesn’t see a difference between Christians and themselves is because believers have been taught the way we live for Jesus is by living for the same gifts God has allowed all the world to have? The problem that plagues American believers is we would rather live for what heaven and earth have in common, than what they don’t have in common. The moment when we finally start living for what we don’t share is the moment when the world finally sees Jesus. The reason why more people come to the saving grace of Jesus Christ in countries, where Christians are persecuted, is because people see how these persecuted believers live for the uncommon gifts of Heaven. Maybe its time for us to start taking a cue from our brothers and sisters, who are being persecuted, so others can see Jesus.