I think we would all agree that the word “persecution” brings to mind a variety of thoughts. There are many kinds of persecution. I can remember in the early years of desegregation how often the word “discrimination” was used in the media. Like the word persecution the word discrimination brings to mind various kinds of discrimination. However the Word of God is interested in one main category of persecution and discrimination. It is the oppression and torment associated with standing for the Word of God over and against false gospels.
We often get criticized for our stance against the false hopes of the Roman Catholic religion. We do not believe in the dual errors of ‘go along to get along’ and ‘Christianity is a big tent with many kinds of gospels’. Either of these two ideas will ruin the gospel.
Sometimes the denigration of our outlook brings out some severe chastisement. Here is an excerpt from a recent e-mail sent to me from a Roman Catholic:
“Over the years I have studied the Christian faith and the arguments utilized by proponents and opponents of Roman Catholicism, and among the individuals who possess the lowest caliber of intelligence and ability to think critically would be yourself as well as a few other such Protestant apologists.”
This is a pretty typical response from those who are upset with this ministry. This of course stings a little bit but it hardly qualifies for the persecution and discrimination that some of our brothers and sisters are experiencing all over the world. We take this in stride and try to give a level headed response. We understand that the gospel has a cutting edge to it that makes it the focal point of anger for those who reject it. We also take encouragement from Scripture that promises those who are persecuted and slandered for the sake of the gospel are blessed.
But straight forward antagonism and insult form only one small piece of the persecution pie. We as Christians need to take into account the cost of being Christian. We lose family members and friends who simply do not understand or want to understand the gospel. We live in a world within a world whereby Christian values and ethics can raise the ire of the general worldview of an anti-Christian society. We find ourselves swimming against the current of modern affairs. We are constantly being pushed to the edge of marginalization by the vanity fair of the worldly wise.
Our Lord reminds us to rejoice and be glad for great is our reward in heaven for in the same way they persecuted the prophets of old. Peter encourages us to stand firm. He writes that if we are insulted because of the name of Christ then we are blessed. So common was the discrimination against Christians in the early church that Peter writes, “ Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12). Indeed take heart. To give voice to the glorious gospel invites reproach. It is not strange!