Every year an organisation called Open Doors publishes a World Watch List, highlighting the countries where Christians face the greatest persecution. Year after year the worst country is North Korea where, if it’s known that you are a Christian, you will be removed from your home and placed in the harshest labour camps and worked to death. Not surprisingly, Christians don’t broadcast their faith for fear, not even telling their own families because children are encouraged to report their parents. The only worship allowed today is that of Kim Jong Un, a man who’s great grandfather was himself a Christian! Completing an unenviable top ten of countries who persecute Christians are Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Eritrea, Yemen, Iran, Nigeria and India.

 

Despite the persecution worldwide there are still many people who turn to Christ for salvation and who are willing to accept the consequences. Iran, in the top ten, has witnessed thousands turning to Christ in recent years. China, a well known communist country, has the largest Christian population on earth. Across Africa, Asia and South America huge numbers of people are seeking God’s salvation through Jesus Christ.

 

Christian persecution is nothing new, it’s been happening ever since the first Church of God in Jerusalem was formed. The first martyr was a man called Stephen who was stoned to death. It wasn’t long before Christians were being hunted down like animals. A man called Saul, a Pharisee, was a hunter of Christians and pity help any he caught. Of course, Saul today is better known to us as Paul, the Christian persecutor who became a Christian himself and whose letters form a significant part of the New Testament. What changed him? It was Jesus. As he was heading off to Damascus on one of his hunting expeditions Jesus appeared to him and said, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (1) Paul was changed in that moment. Instead of being a persecutor he became one of the persecuted.

 

He tells us himself of his sufferings as a Christian, which included beating and imprisonments. He said, “I have … been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” (2)

 

This isn’t much of an advert for Christianity is it? But it’s the one I’m giving you. When we become Christians we know we are in for a tough time from some, even in this country. It happened to our Saviour, Jesus, so it’s bound to happen to us. Do you know what? We’re not masochists who enjoy the suffering that comes our way, but we consider it an honour to suffer for Jesus who suffered so much for us. He didn’t have to, but he came from heaven and died for us, and when we talk about suffering, what happened to him is almost beyond description. He suffered and died for us, and so in love to him we are willing to suffer too if that’s what it takes to declare our faith.

 

We have been through many wars in my lifetime. Men and women have been willing to lay down their lives to serve their country. What about Jesus who suffered for you? What about Jesus who died for you? What are you willing to give up for him? Paul, the one time Christian persecutor said, “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” (3) This is real Christianity. This is what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Are you up for it?

 

Bible References:

  • Acts 9:4
  • 2 Corinthians 11:23-27
  • Philippians 3:8