“Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you” (1 John:3:13). These words were spoken by John. If historical tradition is accurate, he is the only apostle who died of old age. The others were martyred, put to death in a number of ways, including crucifixion, by the sword, thrown from the summit of a building, or beaten to death. Although we are aware that Christians are being martyred in other nations, for several centuries the church in America and the West has enjoyed a peace and safety that is somewhat of an anomaly. Consider John Fox.John Fox (or Foxe), author of Fox’s Book of Martyrs , was said to have lived in “respectable circumstances.” Educated at Oxford, he became a Fellow at Magdalen College, where he would “resort to a grove near the college...In these solitary walks he was often heard to [utter] heavy sobs and sighs, and with tears to pour forth his prayers to God. These nightly retirements…gave rise to the first suspicion of his alienation from the Church of Rome. Being pressed for an explanation of this alteration in his conduct,” Fox refused to lie, spoke the truth and was “by the sentence of the college convicted, condemned as a heretic, and expelled” ( Fox’s Book of Martyrs , “Sketch of the Author,” Edited by William Byron Forbush).
Fox eventually fled England and began gathering material for his book Fox’s Book of Martyrs , documenting the persecutions of Christians from Nero up until his present time.
Today, we have difficulty relating to them in the American church. Groups who have monitored the persecution of evangelicals overseas (such as International Christian Concern) have seen evidence of a disturbing trend in the United States, calling this a “Cold War against the Church” because the violence that will follow has yet to occur. The Family Research Council and Liberty Institute issued a “2013 Survey of Hostility to Religion in America.” There are currently 1,200 “cases of hostility” against religious people—the majority against Christians. Concerning “government restrictions and social hostility towards religion around the globe,” the Pew Forum has raised the level in the United States from “low to moderate” (Morgan, “A Storm Approaches,” Persecution , International Christian Concern, Feb. 2014, p.3).
Although biblical faith is not based upon a cross, a nativity scene, or an icon, the world finds these important enough to remove along with anything else suggesting Christianity. Military chaplains face increasing restrictions on their liberty to minister the gospel or pray in the name of Jesus, while Muslims are gaining concessions. Muslim taxi drivers are permitted to refuse blind passengers because of their “defiling” seeing-eye dogs. Muslim students at universities have prayer times and prayer rooms, along with ritual footbaths.
Growing evidence has raised concerns for Christians in America. 2013 saw increasing evidence of animosity in the US military toward Christians. Mikey Weinstein (founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation), in an interview with Fox News stated that a Christian sharing his faith with another, “…is a version of being spiritually raped, and you are being spiritually raped by fundamentalist Christian religious predators.” Though dismissed as an extremist, his presence is testimony for the beliefs of those who have no tolerance for a biblical faith. Their numbers are growing.
Even more recently, “A professor of criminology at the University of North Carolina, Dr. Mike Adams, filed a suit against the university saying he has been routinely discriminated against” for his Christian-based views on social issues “since his conversion to Christianity in 2000. Before his conversion, Dr. Adams was regularly awarded for his work and promoted…" (http://www.persecution.org).
This should not be surprising. The Lord Jesus warned in John:15:18-21, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.”
Jo Jin Hye, born in North Korea, experienced first hand the tortures of North Korean authorities as she was beaten, kicked, slapped, and her back whipped with wires. She “was close to execution—for repeated defection, helping other defectors, and interacting with Christians—but escaped death because of prayer: ‘I was between life and death—what had I to lose? I had no fear or doubts, I just prayed…God answered them all’” (Devine/Lee, “Fleeing Hell,” World , 3/22/14, p. 44).
Now living in the US, “Jo feels her own faith has dwindled as she got ‘a little too comfortable’ with her religious liberties in America. It’s a vastly different spiritual landscape in North Korea, where ‘just by professing your faith, you can get killed. … You’re putting your life at risk by becoming a Christian’” (Ibid.). Jo Jin Hye’s concerns may not last too long. Evidence is mounting that the liberties of Christians in America are at risk. “It was in 2010 that analysts began to notice a change in the language of government ‘servants.’ Movement away from the traditionally accepted term of ‘freedom of religion’ to the phrase ‘freedom of worship’ became commonplace.
“The term ‘freedom of worship’ is a concept utilized in places like Russia and Hitler’s Germany. Generally speaking the term ‘freedom of worship’ means that individuals are given permission to ‘worship’ whomever or whatever they like as long as they do it in a church or in the privacy of their home. Otherwise all ‘religious’ activities are considered an affront to statism” (Rayphe, “Is There Christian Persecution in America? Report 2013,” http://christianpersecutioninamerica.com/2013/07/08).
Though far lighter than what believers face in other countries, even secular commentators have seen a growing body of evidence is developing. For example, “Even Ira Glass, an atheist and secular Jew, recently mentioned that Christians are portrayed as ‘doctrinaire crazy hothead people.’ He went on to talk about the Christians he knows personally and how they are nothing like the way they’re portrayed in the media; indicating that Christians are unfairly treated” (Brennan, “Religious Persecution in the U.S.? Christians are Fair Game,” Nevada Business , 10/1/13).
This nation, like all nations, has an appointment with endtime events. Scripture prophesies a future ruler who “…shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High...” (Daniel:7:25).
In 2 Timothy:3:12, Paul echoed these warnings, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” It has never been a matter of “if” but rather of “when.”
There is a cost for following the Lord Jesus, who preached, “Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets” (Luke:6:22-23).
As believers, our focus is not that the world hates us. Rather, with the approach of the man of sin (2 Thessalonians:2:3), we know that whatever sufferings believers may face, “The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth. The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming” (Psalm:37:12-13).
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “Brethren, pray for us” (1 Thessalonians:5:25). Let us also remember to pray for our brethren in this present age.