There can be no dispute that the Christian Church is in the “last days.” The beginning of the “last days” could be seen from the time Jesus identified it for his disciples when they asked the question, “Teacher,” they asked Him, “so when will these things be? And what will be the sign when these things are about to take place (Luke 21:7 HCSB)?” Jesus had been preparing them and informing them of that fact throughout his ministry and discipleship of his closest followers. The evidence of those last day events carries on even today.
Persecution came to the Church of the 1st century when people began to see the power of The Kingdom to upset the kingdoms of this world. Those kingdoms, even as they exist today were seen in the economy of nations, the media, the government, the educational and faith institutions and more. Whole households were changed radically.
Today, it is quite apparent that there is much backlash again throughout the world because of the power of the gospel of The Kingdom and because of this the Kingdom is suffering violence by way of persecution. Open Doors USA reports that each month, “322 Christians are killed for their faith, 214 churches or Christian properties are destroyed and that 772 forms of violence are committed against Christians.”
Just yesterday the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the deaths of at least 36 and the injury of 100 or more Coptic Christians in Egypt. According to a February report by Fox News, Open Doors USA has also confirmed that persecution against Christians has increased globally in 2016, including 23 Christians in Mexico who were killed because of their faith. It is interesting to note that a verse that is key to the work of Open Doors USA says, “we are one body. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it (1 Corinthians 12:26.”
It is apparent that the Church worldwide, not just the Church in America is suffering. The question that remains is what the response of the Church will be to all of the persecution that is taking place? In Jesus’s response to his disciples, it says that he told them that before much of what he warned them about, to expect persecution. He said that this should lead to an opportunity to witness and that they should prepare ahead of time what to say (see Luke 21:12-15).
This seems to make it clear that the response of the Church is one of alertness, preparation, and expectancy. It is also one of boldness and courage. If the Church is called to be alert, it cannot turn a blind eye to the things happening around the world to fellow Christians. It is quite easy to become consumed by the things that are occurring right in our community or our own backyard, yet, as it was pointed out earlier if one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers. It is imperative that the Church stand together and not turn a blind eye to the event happening around the world.
The first part of alertness is the act of watching and praying. We are to be as watchmen on the wall with prophetic eyes to be able to see what is happening, speak to it and prophetically declare God’s heart in the midst of what is happening. Persecution has the ability to halt people in fear but knowing that persecution is coming gives God’s people the advantage of both expectancy and the ability to be prepared to speak to those things both to fellow Christians and as a witness to unbelievers of why it is happening and what can be expected as a result, not just for the Christian but also the rest of the world.
This is not a time for soft or lukewarm Christians. It is also not a time for Christians to be silent. The Church is called to rise and shine as lights on a hill and to not be hidden as a flame under a bushel. The greater that light shines, the more ability it has to dispel darkness and reveal more of the need for a Kingdom presence in those places. The Kingdom of heaven upsets the kingdoms of the world by turning what is upside down right side up.
This also means that the Church cannot be a people who walk in fear but faith and courage. Even as Joshua was commanded to be courageous in the face of unfamiliar circumstances, the Church must become courageous in the face of opposition and offense. When Joshua was charged to be courageous, he then had to charge the people of Israel to likewise be courageous. They were also later charged to choose who they would serve and worship as God. They could either choose to serve the God of their forefathers or return to the false gods that they had been delivered.
Today, the Church has a similar decision to make: to scatter in fear or to remain silent in times when the Church should be declaring and decreeing the word and will of God. The former would be detrimental to not just the Christian but also to nations and kingdoms God desires to see restored to greatness and glory. The latter would be to not just the deliverance of God’s people and the exaltation of God’s Kingdom but also hope for the world that needs to know the truth and cost of ignoring what is happening.
Should the Church rise together and tend to the parts of the Church that are suffering, the church will become strong and whole and a greater testimony to God in the earth. Dare to be bold, courageous and ready to speak to those things that are happening so that the Church can truly turn the world right side up.
QUESTION: What other things do you see as essential as a response of the Church in light of the present day persecution?