Bombs exploded at two New Mexico churches last Sunday morning. This after church burnings over recent months in Georgia, Minnesota, Kentucky and Delaware. The shooting last June at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina shocked the nation. Attacks against Christians and our places of worship are clearly escalating.
Whatever their motivation, these assaults make clear a central fact of our faith: "All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Timothy 3:12). Not some, "all." Why?
According to John Allen's The Global War on Christians, 90 percent of religious martyrs around the world today are followers of Christ. Across history, more Christians have died for their faith than the combined total of all other religious martyrs. Clearly, there is something uniquely endemic to the Christian faith that engenders persecution.
Jesus explained: Satan "was a murderer from the beginning" (John 8:44) who "comes only to steal and kill and destroy" (John 10:10). Our enemy knows that the most effective way to grieve our Father's heart is to harm his children (Tweet this). So those who follow Jesus have faced Satan's attacks, from the first disciples to today.
Here's the good news: when we suffer for our Lord, our Lord suffers with us.
In Acts 9, "Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples" (v. 1). When the risen Christ confronted him, Jesus did not ask, "why do you persecute my followers?" Rather, he asked, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" (v. 4). Saul's attacks on Christians were a direct attack on Christ. It is still so today.
Put an object in your hand, then close your fist around it. For others to harm whatever is in your hand, they must first harm you. This is precisely your position in the omnipotent hand of the One who says of his followers, "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand" (John 10:28). "No one"—guaranteed.
So pay the price in your fallen culture to love Jesus and love people today. Thomas Merton noted, "Gratitude and confidence and freedom from ourselves: these are signs that we have found our vocation and are living up to it even though everything else may seem to have gone wrong. They give us peace in any suffering. They teach us to laugh at despair. And we may have to."
When the bomb detonated at Holy Cross Catholic Church last Sunday, Monsignor John Anderson had just begun the Mass: "I was right in the middle of saying the words 'take and eat, this is my body'" when the bomb exploded. It is so very appropriate that the church was observing Jesus' death for us at the very moment when death threatened them.
The bomb shattered the church's glass front doors. If it had exploded 10 minutes later, it could have been much worse. No one was standing by the door, Monsignor Anderson explained, because "it was the consecration part of the Mass, everybody was kneeling down and facing the altar."
When challenges find you today, remember: facing the altar of Jesus is the safest place to be. (Tweet this)
Publication date: August 4, 2015
For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit www.denisonforum.org.
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