The favorite “hobbies” of some government and religious leaders yesterday and today involve oppressing, intimidating, and killing Christians, much of it for sport. Persecutors from the early years include figures such as Nero, who burned Christians as lanterns to light the way of Rome. Emperor Diocletian, the instigator of the “Great Persecution” that began in AD 303, demolished churches, burned Scriptures, and drained church coffers. Additionally, the secular courts of his era executed believers who were unwilling to provide sacrifices to the Roman gods.
Persecution Perspective from Today
Despite the long history, the study of notorious persecutors does not have to go back to ancient times. A more recent example of the proponents of pain includes the Fulani herdsmen. This tribe has aggressively attacked Christians in Nigeria at an alarming rate. Thousands of Christians have been killed in the last dozen years, and there is no sign of slowing down.
Furthermore, hundreds of attacks are also reported in India each year, which has raised its ranking in the world to number ten on the Open Doors World Watch List. Waves of Hindu nationalism are the primary source of the oppression, and the aim is to make Hinduism supreme. Attacks on Christians include destroying homes, displacing people, outright killings, intimidations and threats, and physical abuse.
Growth for Tomorrow
In the last several years, three leaders from the SOM India network have been killed by shooting, poisoning, and vehicular assault. Yet, every time the enemies of the Gospel attempt to rid themselves of Christians, four things happen:
- Believers step into the everlasting kingdom of heaven because not even death can separate from the eternal love of Christ (Romans 8:38–39).
- Surrounding believers refocus, refortifying on the great VALUE of the Gospel, recognizing it’s worth the high cost of laying down one’s life.
- A new story recounts courage, determination, and faith in the face of extreme violence. For example, in India, each martyr is building a greater reputation for Christ as Jesus demonstrates the power of His Spirit to overcome.
- The beauty of selfless sacrifice draws seekers into the faith.
Lessons from the Laboratory
As governments increasingly continue to “experiment” with the ways they can torment and terrorize believers, it brings more opportunities for Christians to show their mettle and inherit their medals of valor from the Lord. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:13–14:
Each one’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each one’s work. If anyone’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. (NASB)
Can you imagine the excitement and joy there will be when Jesus hands out rewards to those who have sacrificed for His Kingdom and cause?
Stand behind the believers at risk by praying down the POWER of the Spirit to encourage and support these courageous workers in India who need it the most.