TWO KINDS OF PERSECUTION
A lot of people are predicting that serious anti-Christian persecution is coming to America. I say �serious� because most of the anti-Christian activities � both private and governmental � don�t really stack up against the kind of persecution we see in Moslem or Communist countries.
Presently, in this country, we have occasional assailants spit at street preachers or shove them or even sometimes punch them. In Moslem countries, mobs stone Christians to death. Sometimes, in America, preachers are arrested for disorderly conduct or inciting a riot � and even more rarely are convicted of those charges. In China, Christians are convicted of subverting the public good and imprisoned for many years or even executed.
The disparity between these is wide. Indeed, one seems merely inconvenient when set along side the other. Yet, Josef Tson, a surviving pastor under the infamous Cercesciu regime in Romania, a man who has seen more than his share of actual persecution, predicts hard-core persecution here. Nor is Tson alone in these predictions.
I believe these predictions are accurate � barring some great outpouring of God�s Spirit.
It occurred to me that there are two types of persecution. The first that I call �godly persecution� is related to 2 Timothy 3:12, �Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.� This occurs when the lives and preaching of God�s people brings conviction upon their unsaved neighbors.
In the book of Acts, we see Stephen, the first recorded Christian martyr, stoned by people who were so convicted by the message that they literally shut their ears to his preaching as they rushed upon him. Even a cursory look at publications by Voice of the Martyrs, which documents worldwide persecution, evinces the same principle at work in China, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, India, and dozens of other countries.
John 3: 19-20 says, �And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.�
The second type is not so complementary. I call it �judgment persecution� and it is based upon Hebrews 12: 6�s declaration, �For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.�
Here, what we see is God cleaning up His own backyard. His own children are in rebellion, so He empowers their enemies to defeat them and subject them to oppression. Even though this judgment originates with God�s love for His people, it certainly is hard to take � as is any chastening. (See Hebrews 12: 11) The purpose, of course, is to drive the iniquity out of the Church.
This is the kind of persecution I predict is coming to the American Church. I think, in light of current ungodliness within the Church (as reflected by George Barna polls and other sources), it would be hard to argue that the American Church is living so godly that the rest of the nation was coming under conviction for their sins.
The Barna polls, for instance, reflect that a large group of Americans claim to be Christians who believe the Bible, yet most of those people also say that this has little or no impact on how they live their lives. Divorce rates among people who are claim to be strong, Bible believing Christians are the equal of those of the unsaved. Internal polls at abortion clinics tell us that fully one fifth of those mothers killing their children admit to being �evangelical Christians� (and these are only the ones who will admit it).
Yes, there are Christians who live godly, and those who do so and are vocal about crying out for holy living are suffering more and more opposition. Some of this comes from the unsaved world system. �Intolerant� Christians of this kind are even used as the world�s excuse for cracking down on all �fundamentalist� Christians � no matter how meek and compliant. However, a lot of the opposition comes from within the ranks of the Church.
If history is any gauge, there are some things we can expect to happen as the persecution increases.
First, the world will begin to threaten the special privileges of the churches because of the Churches� promotion of �hate.� Charges that churches are illegally benefiting from tax exemptions under IRS rules for �religious charities� will be brought. Individual believers who engage in �seditious hate-speech� will be arrested and the churches they are affiliated with will be brought under intense government scrutiny.
This will bring terror to church members everywhere as there will be no way to know for certain whether you or your church will be the next one to be targeted.
As a result, when the world points to the actions of Bible-believing Christians as �hate,� �intolerance,� or even �terrorism,� expect that there will be those they thought were fellow believers who will be only too glad to be rid of them and �cooperate� with law enforcement in making criminal cases against them. Some may even hang in there with them for a while before finally caving in.
Matthew 24: 9-10 describes it like this: �Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.�
In Roman times, such people were called the Lapsi � those whose faith lapsed under pressure and chose to burn the pinch of incense to Caesar rather than bear the cross of persecution. The world will gladly use the fear of these modern Lapsi for as long as they are useful. Eventually most of them will be done away as well since they are people whom, when push comes to shove, cannot be trusted. A few will be held up as trophies of the conversion of Christian truth by worldly wisdom.
Recall the infamous �German Church� under (and I do mean �under�) the Third Reich.
The modern betrayals will be motivated by fear � fear of being arrested, fear of being associated with radicals, fear of being seen as unloving, fear of getting a bad reputation, fear of government scrutiny, and even fear of losing one�s 501(c) (3), tax-exempt status. Some may fear looking like bad or lax Christians when compared to those who are receiving the brunt of the persecution.
All of this �judgment persecution� will have the same goal as God�s chastisement of individual believers � to eliminate the impurities. In the end, judgment persecution will purify the Church so that the remaining oppression becomes �godly persecution.�
The dross of false or cowardly believers will be removed. Even weak believers will either see the danger and stiffen their resolve to hang on to Christ, or they will cease to be Christians.
Like training in so many other things, what you train for today will become instinctive response when the real trouble arises. If you stand firmly for the truth in smaller things today, it is likely you will continue to do so as the cost rises. (Luke 16: 10: �He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.�)
Still, no one should presume too much. (1 Corinthians 10: 12: �Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.�)
In Matthew 26: 41, Jesus reminds us, �Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.�
� 2004 Paul deParrie - All Rights Reserved
Paul deParrie is a 17-year veteran of anti-abortion street activism, a preacher, and a social critic. He is the author of "Dark Cures: Have Doctors Lost Their Ethics" (Huntington House) available at NewsWithViews Online Store Front. deParrie may be reached at: [email protected].
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"...the American Church is living so godly that the rest of the nation was coming under conviction for their sins."