In the late second century, the Church Father Tertullian, in his work “Apologeticus,” wrote that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”
Given the centrality martyrdom and persecution has played in Christian witness, we shouldn’t be surprised when Christianity’s critics and opponents downplay or even deny the persecution of Christians.
An example of this is a recent book entitled “The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom.” As Ephraim Radner of Wycliffe College wrote in First Things, this book and others like it, aren’t “history but an ideologically charged refusal to deal with the moral consistency of Christian martyrdom, both in the first centuries and as it is still in fact suffered.”
Martyrdom, as Radner writes, poses “deep political challenges” to what the Apostle Paul called “powers” and “principalities,” both visible and invisible.
The willingness of ordinary people, as John L. Allen writes in “The Global War on Christians,” to “pay in blood” rather than deny their faith shows that Caesar and his would-be imitators are parodies of the true king, Jesus Christ.
For the past three days, we’ve been telling you about the persecution of Christians all over the world. They deserve our prayers, support, and our admiration. They serve as an inspiration for Christians in the West.
This is especially true today because, as Allen points out, the battle isn’t limited to the global south. While we in the West, thankfully, aren’t being called upon to “pay in blood,” we are living in a culture increasingly hostile to Christianity, not just in the public sphere but in the private one, as well.
For instance, in a study by the Pew Forum the United States “was one of sixteen nations whose scores for government and social restrictions [on religious freedom] jumped by more than a point.”
Allen quotes Archbishop William Lori’s testimony before Congress in which Lori said that “the bishops of the United States have watched with increasing alarm as this great national legacy of religious liberty... has been subject to ever more frequent assault and ever more rapid erosion.”
There are many examples of this “erosion”: the HHS mandate, an attempt to reverse the “ministerial exemption” in federal employment laws, and “the absence of strong conscience protections as part of gay marriage laws at the state level,” to name just a few.
And if anything, the situation elsewhere in the West is even worse. I’ve told you about the British preacher facing prosecution for calling homosexuality a sin. Or there’s the local branch of the Knights of Columbus in British Columbia, which had refused “to rent a hall to a lesbian couple for a wedding reception” and was ordered to pay $1000 to each woman for its offense against the women’s “dignity, feelings and self-respect.”
The deterioration of religious freedom led Cardinal George of Chicago to say “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.”
I pray that it won’t come to that. But there’s no doubt that we’re going to be tested in the years to come. It can’t be helped. Saying “Jesus Christ is Lord” is confession of where our allegiance lies. That confession has always come with a cost, as our brethren around the world know all too well.
And it’s our time now to learn it, too. Pastors must take seriously the task of discipling believers to love Christ in this brave new context. And parents must disciple their children the same way. Let’s challenge each other, and most of all, pray for each other.
And in addition to praying, come to BreakPoint.org, click on this commentary, and we’ll provide you with the names of organizations working on behalf of persecuted Christians--organizations that deserve our support.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.
Publication date: December 5, 2013