I’ve never been comfortable saying I’ve been persecuted for my Christian faith. Have I ever been laughed at? Made fun of? Sure. Had my feelings hurt? You bet.
But should I call that persecution? After all, there are Christians in other parts of the world who live in fear for their lives. After all, I’ve never been hit, stabbed, or stoned. I’ve never been to jail for Christ.
I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, who wants to be persecuted? Don’t we thank God we can gather together in public worship and freely live our lives as Christians in America?
On the other hand, I feel ashamed. If I were a serious Christian, wouldn’t I face something approximating the kind of persecution we see in Scripture (see 2 Timothy 3:12)? I mean real persecution. Not nasty looks and unkind words.
And so, I’m left in a quandary. On the one hand I want to live in peace. On the other hand I can’t help but feel that the desire is somehow unspiritual.
Can you relate?
This tension isn’t resolved when we open our Bibles. On the one hand, Jesus is called the “Prince of Peace.” On the other hand, Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”
How can this be? The Prince of Peace says, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth.” Is Jesus schizophrenic?
Of course, the answer to that has to be a resounding “No.” Jesus came to bring peace; but the peace Jesus brings comes through the sword—which is to say, it comes through war.
In our day of perpetual warfare, we forget the fact that the goal of any good war is peace. Two armies fight for territory. On the front lines, the battle is fierce. But once a battle is over, the fighting moves on to another place and a relative peace resumes.
In the western world, much blood has been spilt over the truth of the Gospel. There is a long train of martyrs that, for a time, secured a relative peace for us.
This is their glory, and it is no shame for us to be their children or to enjoy the benefit of their labors. But the Enemy has been cunning. He has lulled us to sleep and he has been steadily reclaiming ground.
This is where our shame should come in. Because while we have protections that no Christians anywhere else have dreamed of, we have not been watchful to guard them. We have conceded ground over and over again—hard won ground. And the time is soon coming when our precious convictions will be just as costly for us to hold as it was for our fathers in the faith.
There is ground to hold and ground to take. The devil and his forces want this world and do not give it up easily. They want to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). But Jesus came to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). This is a war. There will be battle. Christians will be persecuted.
Ultimately, the angels weren’t being poetic when they said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Isaiah wasn’t joking when he wrote, “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace.”
But that’s not the peace we have now. We have felt the assault of the enemy and fallen back to the safety and comfort and peace of our private religion. We are giving ground up to the devil. This is the peace of capitulation, not the peace of conquest.
Do you want peace? You should. So do I. But the only way to have lasting peace is to push back the domain of darkness and advance the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son. This is wartime. This is not the time to draw back. It is the time to advance by faith.