Why are We Surprised?

I was going to let this go, but after seeing a couple of Facebook posts by fellow believers about it, I feel compelled to say something.  It concerns the killing of Christians by Muslims in Africa and the Phillippines over the past few days. There was an undertone of outrage in the posts that these incidents were ignored by American media while much was made of the massacre at a mosque in New Zealand on Friday.

I run the risk of sounding like a self-righteous scold, but here goes. First of all, these are all horrible tragedies carried out by evil individuals who were driven by hate, revenge, misguided religious zeal, or who knows what. The Muslims who were murdered deserved it no more than the Christians who suffered the same fate. If we who call ourselves Christian believe anything else, we need to repent, ask forgiveness, and then go back and read what the Bible says about how to treat your ‘enemies’.

We get indignant when Christian persecution and execution (what else would you call this?) doesn’t make the front page of the New York Times or the lead story on NBC news. We seem jealous that Islam gets all the press while we’re ignored. My question is: why are we surprised the world ignores Christians except to mock and spew hatred about them? We need to point our outrage at the right target and remember some basic things.

Jesus told his disciples explicitly they would be hated by the world. “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:20) A little later he told them: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; ‘I have overcome the world’. (John 16:33) Jesus promised to be with his followers always but made it clear their lives would be difficult and full of trouble. Since we’re his disciples we’re going to suffer as well.

Peter said it this way: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12) A few verses later he says, Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name” (v. 16). So- the disciples were to expect a ‘fiery trial’ to come their way. It was a test. When it came they were to glorify God as they suffered. I suspect it was something more than what we in America call persecution.

I fear greatly for the church in the United States. We’ve grown so comfortable with the right to worship free from persecution we find it difficult to comprehend that most believers in the world literally risk their lives to follow Christ. We more closely resemble the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3 every day. They were self-satisfied and thought they needed nothing, especially Jesus Christ. They had no love for Christ or the gospel. They met on Sundays to congratulate themselves for being so good and then went back to their comfortable lives. Christ said they made him want to vomit. What will he say about us?

We complain and demand that those in authority do something to stop discrimination against Christians. We’ve apparently forgotten that Jesus was persecuted, beaten, and executed by the authorities of his day. The world hasn’t gotten better whatever we tell ourselves. Human nature hasn’t changed. The world is still under the curse of sin and chooses to live under its bondage, thinking they control their own lives. It is the BIG lie, the original one first told to Adam and Eve. We tell it to ourselves so we can live with ourselves. The world prefers slavery under sin disguised as freedom to surrender and submission to the only One who grants real freedom from the slavery of sin.

Our outrage should focus on the evil one who turns us against each other and away from God. We should be angry at the darkness surrounding those outside the grace of God, the ones in danger of eternal punishment. We need to spend less time venting our anger on Facebook and other social media about being marginalized and more time carrying out the one task we were given by Christ- making disciples. We won’t win the world by better press coverage. That’s what the world does- “Look at me!” The world is the enemy of God. We lift up Jesus; He’s the one we want people to see, the One they need to see, not us.

We are called to be different- radically different. Our lives are to be the embodiment of Christ. His terrifying love for the lost, his holiness, his obedience, and his suffering. He was rejected by the ones he came seeking, so why should we be any different? We are told to rejoice in suffering and persecution; it’s a mark that shows we belong to Christ. You don’t get much more radical than that. Love your enemies; pray for those that persecute you. Feed, clothe and care for your enemies. Are we doing that? More importantly, are we boldly telling the world their sin is condemning them to an eternity of hell, but Jesus offers them forgiveness, grace, and eternal life? Do we love them that much? Can we?

Do our lives look like bondservants (slaves) of Christ? Or do we look and act pretty much like everyone else? If it’s the latter, the world won’t hate you, but they won’t listen to you, either. Yes, we should mourn when the innocent suffer and die, especially fellow believers at the hands of those who violently oppose Christianity. But we should never dare to be surprised by the world’s hatred of Christ’s followers and its willingness to show it.