I recently received an email from a missionary friend whose coworker was beaten for distributing Christian material at railway station in India. In comparison, I think it’s safe to say that the US majority Christian culture has had a pretty easy go at things when it comes to practicing their faith. The question is: Why do they think this relative ease will continue?
Matt. 5:11 says “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” The key here is that the verse doesn’t say “if” but “when,” implying that persecution for the Christian is a forgone conclusion. John 15:18, 20 shows us that our very connection to Jesus guarantees this treatment. “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you…Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you…”
To be a follower of Christ is to follow in the footsteps of Christ. Footsteps which treaded courageously through persecution. The Christian then, if truly following Christ, cannot expect to be denied the privilege of persecution.
Some say the time of persecution is coming for the American majority Church. Society has gone from merely pushing away from Christian values to becoming increasingly hostile toward them. If this trend continues it is safe to say that many American majority Christians could see and even experience physical persecution in their lifetime. For many this understandably inspires fear but “fear not!” God is sending help.
It goes without saying that we can and will be strengthened by the Holy Spirit in times of persecution but that is not the help I am talking about. The help I am talking about comes through diversity.
The US Census projects that “the minority population is expected to increase to the point that they represent the numeric majority between 2040 and 2050.” Many people fear this influx of immigrants from all over the world will lead to the de-Christianization of America but what some don’t understand is that many who are coming to America are Christians. Christians who are coming in the form of immigrants and refugees from China and the continents of Africa and South America, places where Christianity is growing at a higher rate than in the United States and where Christians have been persecuted for generations.
Much like an MLB baseball franchise with a history of losing brings in a World Series manager to help whip the team into shape, God is bringing persecuted Christians to the American Majority Church not only from all over the World but also from its indigenous African American Church that has been persecuted for centuries in this country. Embedded in the cultural DNA of these ethnic groups is a thoughtful and trial tested approach to persecution. These folks are here and are coming not only help their majority brothers and sisters of this country prepare for persecution but also to stand with them during it. We need these diverse brothers and sisters to teach and train this American Church how to stand for Christ even when doing so may call down violence on their bodies and the bodies of those they love most. They will need to learn the scriptures that are most effective for those who sit in prison cells or the songs to sing to give you courage as you face firing squads. Most American Christians have never had to search the Bible or their faith for that type of encouragement. They are soft and untested in such things. This is another reason why the Christian Church in this country needs to continue to break down the walls of hostility and homogeneity and pursue multi-cultural, cross-denominational Christian relationships and worship experiences. The strength of the Church in the years to come may depend on it.