A recent article published by the Christian Broadcasting Network reports that Christian persecution in China has escalated to an all-time high. The author, Tré Goins-Phillips, a writer for Faithwire.com, said, “local government authorities in the communist country are continuing to ransack churches, tearing down crosses and other Christian symbolism.” He also reports that an elderly man who tried to stop officials from tearing down the cross on a local church suffered injuries after being shoved to the ground.1
In a separate article, CBN reporter Andrea Morris reported that Chinese officials are forbidding parents from enrolling their children in faith-based schools and threatening to remove children if they fail to comply. According to the report, Chinese government officials removed four adopted children from a church family and returned them to their biological parents. The article also quotes one church member as saying, “The worse China-US relations get, the more [Chinese Communist Party] CCP persecutes Christians.”2
As U.S. politics continue to race it’s own country towards implosion at an ever-increasing speed, aggression and hatred towards Christians could escalate as well at some point. Sound far-fetched? It is not really, especially when considering how any reference to God or His teachings have been removed from federal buildings and property. Then we have the annual nativity bash when activist groups file lawsuits against townships who dare erect a nativity scene to celebrate Christ’s birth at Christmas. There are even activists who relentlessly pursue removing the symbol of the cross from the public eye.
While Christians in the United States face particular oppressions against their faith as a whole, they have not faced persecution to the degree seen in other nations. For the most part, Christians in the United States experience religious discrimination, but is physical abuse and harm soon to follow? There is a strong possibility, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center. A study released in 2019 shows an upward trend of government harassment against religious groups. The numbers jumped from 0.4 to 1.4 percent between 2007 and 2017 in places the most religious freedom exists in the world, North and South America.3
Jesus forewarns us that we will encounter persecution, and yet, we often seem shocked when it happens to us. That is because many churches today preach watered-down Hakuna-Matata style messages that profess everything to be hunky-dory. The Bible clearly states, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Jesus said, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you” (John 15:19).
Therefore, when it comes to being persecuted or discriminated against because of our faith, we should not plan for what is probable; instead, we should prepare for the inevitable. That preparation begins with building and anchoring to the solid foundation of God’s word. So how do we respond or react when faced with persecution by the world? Several New Testament authors, who experienced persecution to the point of death, answer that very question.
"In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:6-7)
When Peter says, “In this, you greatly rejoice,” he refers to our salvation in Christ Jesus and looks beyond this life’s trials to the Lord’s glorious and imminent return. He sees the big picture and points out that the trials we encounter in life strengthen our faith to give praise, honor, and glory to our Savior and Lord. I have often said that if it were not for the trials of life, how then would we come to recognize and appreciate the blessings from God.
"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4)
James, the brother of Jesus, reinforces Peter’s words and tells us to consider it joy when we encounter various trials. What is so joyful about being hurt? The knowledge that in our times of anguish and despair, we are never alone for we have the Spirit of God within us, the Son of God walking beside us, and Father God with His watchful eye guarding over us. Our trust in the promises of God sustains us through the good times and the bad.
Joshua, the successor to Moses, who led the Israelites into the promised land, said, “Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord, your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh. 1:9). Jesus gave us this promise before He ascended into heaven as He issued the Great Commission to all of His disciples. Jesus said:
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-20)
In times of persecution in whatever form, we can take refuge in knowing that all authority belongs to Christ Jesus, who says that He is with us always, through thick and thin, the good times and the bad. Therefore, when we encounter various trials in life, let us remind ourselves of Apostle Paul’s wise words. Paul wrote:
"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?" (Romans 8:31)
1 Goins-Phillips, T. (2020) China Rips Crosses from Churches, Throwing Down an Elderly Man Trying to Stop It. Retrieved from https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/cwn/2020/august/china-rips-crosses-from-churches-throwing-to-the-ground-elderly-man-trying-to-stop-it.
2 Morris, A. (2020) ‘They Threatened Our Children’: Chinese Christian Families Facing Separation and Relentless Persecution. Retrieved from https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/world/2020/july/they-threatened-our-children-chinese-christian-families-facing-separation-and-relentless-persecutionn.
3 Pew Research Center. (2019). A Closer Look at How Religious Restrictions Have Risen Around the World. Retrieved from https://www.pewforum.org/2019/07/15/a-closer-look-at-how-religious-restrictions-have-risen-around-the-world/.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.