Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
We don’t talk about persecution too much these days. When we talk of persecution we often find ourselves focusing on the martyrs of old, men like Michael Servitus and Pliny the Younger and Justin Martyr and thousands of others who gave their lives rather than denounce their belief in Jesus Christ.
Tertullian observed: “The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow. The blood of Christians is seed.” (Tertullian, Apology 50, c. A.D. 200). In the earliest years of Christianity, persecution of Christians was rampant.
“It’s a beautiful thing to God when a Christian does battle with pain. When he faces threats, punishments, and tortures by mocking death and treading underfoot the horror of the executioner; when he raises up his freedom in Christ as a standard before kings and princes; when he yields to God alone and, triumphant and victorious, he tramples upon the very man who has pronounced sentenceupon him. God finds all these things beautiful. (Minucius Felix, The Octavius 37, c. 200)”
Today, though it doesn’t make our newspapers or major headlines on the Fox News website, Christianity is still under fire. Every day thousands of people around the world are living under some level of persecution. At the time of this writing, a periodical from “Voice of the Martyrs” (magazine/website) carries current reports of two pastors and two aid workers standing trial for “crimes against national security” in Khartoum, Sudan. If found guilty, they could possibly be sentenced to death. There are currently16 prisoners in prison in seven countries of the world. According to prisoneralert.com:
“In more than 40 nations around the world today Christians are being persecuted for their faith. In some of these nations it is illegal to own a Bible, to share your faith Christ, change your faith or teach your children about Jesus. Those who boldly follow Christ—in spite of government edict or radical opposition—can face harassment, arrest, torture and even death. Yet Christians continue to meet for worship and to witness for Christ, and the church in restricted nations is growing.
Areas of the world where Christians face persecution include:
- Burma (Myanmar)
- Chiapas, Mexico
- Gaza and the West Bank
- Mindanao, Philippines
- North Korea
- Saudi Arabia
- Sri Lanka
- Tibet (China)
- United Arab Emirates
Meanwhile, in America, we certainly don’t face those levels of persecution. We do, however, in our own lives face the little persecutions of being passed over for a promotion, or not selected for a particular program or position due to conflicts resulting from underlying religious issues. In some social and even business circles, those with Christian backgrounds and beliefs are unwelcome. While our country was founded on principles of religious freedom, there are daily incidents when those freedoms are difficult to exercise.
Yet, still, whether in Yemen or New York, Sri Lanka or Louisiana – the Word stands true:
“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”