but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. - 1Peter 3: 15-16 (ESV)
I want to share with you stories from two different biblical worldviews. One that grasps the understanding of Christian persecution and one that does not. Meriam Yehya Ibrahim was sentenced to die by a Sudanese court in May of this year. Her crime? Converting to Christianity. Eight months pregnant at the time, Ibrahim was given a few days to renounce her Christian faith or die; which she did not. She was also sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery. Did she commit adultery? No, but according to sharia law, since her husband is a Christian her marriage is void. Thanks to international pressure she was not executed and was released only to be charged again with a bogus charge about her travel documents. She is currently in hiding, although she did have to give birth while in prison and in chains. I am also relatively sure the Sudanese prison system does not offer the same cable package as our own.
While ushering in the new year in 2011, 23 worshipers were killed in Egypt by two different bombings. Hundreds more were wounded. Since we invaded Iraq in 2003 the Christian population has suffered unending persecution and their numbers once in excess of 1.5 million have dwindled to 400,000. Yes beloved, there were over 1.5 million Christians in that country we were told to hate so much. Then there is Pastor Saeed Abedini, who sits rotting for the past two years in the Iranian prison renowned for housing the worst criminals. His crime? Building an orphanage. But Iran through secret trials sentenced him to eight years for sharing his Christian faith. I imagine it is safe to say that these brothers and sisters in our faith cling tightly to these verses:
"If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 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. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: 'They hated me without a cause.' - John 15: 18-25 (ESV)
Circle back around the globe with me and you will find that here in America, we give them plenty of cause to hate Jesus. Two headlines in Christian media screamed out this week - persecution!
Bank Teller Fired for Telling Customers To "Have a Blessed Day."
"I Would Go To Jail Over Jesus' Name," Says Public Official