Many are persecuted for Christian faith
Published 12:34 am Saturday, April 27, 2019
The number of dead has increased to more than 300 people and the wounded number more than 500, according to news reports from the island nation of Sri Lanka, where churches and hotels were attacked on Easter Sunday.
Images of the carnage from the suicide bombings are gruesome. One news story shows a statue of Jesus spattered with blood from bombing victims. Men, women and children who went to their churches to celebrate the Risen Savior were killed during worship services.
According to Open Doors, USA, an international Christian ministry which supports and strengthens persecuted Christians around the world, some 75 percent of the world’s population lives in an area with severe religious restrictions. “Every day of every week, in at least 60 countries, people are persecuted because of their belief in Jesus Christ. Christians are the most persecuted religious group worldwide.
“Every month, on average, 345 Christians are killed for faith-related reasons, 105 Churches and Christian buildings are burned or attacked, and 219 Christians are detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned,” states Open Doors, USA
The news reports and statistics on the persecuted church caused me to ask myself, “What does serving Christ cost me?” I can own a Bible and attend church without fearing for my life. I don’t have to sacrifice or suffer like many Christians around the world. But, do I obey Jesus’ words to His followers? “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).
Thomas à Kempis once wrote, “Many are eager to be happy with him; few wish to suffer anything for him. Many will follow him as far as the breaking of bread, but few will remain to drink from his passion….Many love Christ as long as they encounter no hardship.”
David Platt has written a book titled, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, “We are settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves.”
Platt issues a challenge to Christians, “You and I can choose to continue with business as usual in the Christian life and in the church as a whole, enjoying success based on the standards defined by the culture around us. Or we can take an honest look at the Jesus of the Bible and dare to ask what the consequences might be if we really believed him and really obeyed him.”
New York Times best-selling author Ann Voskamp has said, “Perhaps, in this high calling to humble living, it is possible to remember daily his far greater sacrifice, his innumerable unmerited kindnesses, and choose to give thanks for whatever he gives in the moment—all of it.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran minister who opposed Hitler and died in a Nazi concentration camp near the end of World War II, wrote The Cost of Discipleship. He said, “Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.”
As American Christians, let us pray for persecuted Christians and follow Christ whole-heartedly ourselves.
Jan White is a national award-winning religion columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org