November 21, 2000
In January of last year, an Australian missionary in India was burned to death in his car along with his two young sons. This happened just outside a church. Those who tried to help were beaten by the attackers. The missionary worked with leprosy patients for 34 years. His sons were visiting on vacation from school. The attack was unprovoked.
Not long after this senseless incident, five more missionaries were beaten while they handed out pamphlets. India’s Prime Minister, was quick to condemn these attacks, as was Dr. P.P. Job, associated with an organization called “Voice of the Martyrs in India.” Job also warned that Christians should not fear what may happen but always be ready to die for their faith. This man could say this because he knew the warning of Jesus to His disciples: “All men will hate you because of me.”
People are persecuted for reasons other than their faith. A bully might pick on someone because they are small or thin or overweight. Our society sometimes selects an underdog, raising hackles in human rights activists. Laws are passed to protect people from persecution.
For instance, members of one religious group who join the RCMP are allowed to wear the clothing of their faith with their uniform. They and others are protected from losing their job or being physically threatened because of their beliefs.
However, Christians sometimes seem exempt from this protection, if not in North America, in other parts of the world. It should not be a surprise; Jesus said it would happen.
The Bible offers some explanation. Paul wrote, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
He understood that a person who follows Christ can shine light in dark places: godliness is a rebuke to sin. For some who prefer living in the dark, that light can be at the least annoying — at the most intolerable.
How are Christians supposed to respond to expressions of annoyance or even violent reactions to their chosen lifestyle? At the memorial service for the missionary and his sons, his wife and daughter offered no bitterness. Instead, they led the congregation in singing: “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future, And life is worth the living just because He lives.”
If Christians can shine even under attack, what about those who shrink back from the light of Christ in them? God offers a choice. Jesus said, “Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light . . . .” That is, we can live in the delusion of comfort that accompanies lies and darkness related to sin and its consequences, or we can live in the light and truth of Christ, even if it means that others may harm us for it.
Lord Jesus, I do not like rejection or pain, but far better that You accept me for eternity than I settle for the temporary comforts of this life. Help me be a godly person. Give me the grace I need to turn my back on my sin and selfishness. Shine Your light in my life and help me keep on turning toward Your light, even if others respond with rejection, anger or even violence.