PART 1: 7 Secrets of Avoiding Persecution »
Note from the Editor: Shadrach is being sarcastic here, in case you didn’t notice. Also, while those who follow Christ will be persecuted, Boundless does not promote the idea that persecution signifies the degree to which one is following Christ. If, for instance, we make mooning and flipping off non-Christians a regular part of our witness, we will be persecuted more than Christians who don’t. But we will also be horribly mistaken if we take this persecution as confirmation that we’re being more Christ-like than our less-persecuted Christian peers. Boundless’ official position on the issue: While sharing the gospel will result in some level of persecution, persecution never justifies witnessing tactics that do not reflect the character of Jesus Christ.
4. Assume all people are Christians and going to heaven.
I know Jesus said that most people are headed down the broad road to destruction, and that very few are heading down the narrow path to salvation. But this obviously isn’t true. Wouldn’t it be just like God to forgive everyone in the end? It would really prove, once and for all, His ultimate kindness and mercy. Come on now. Say it slowly with me: “Wouldn’t it be just like God to forgive everyone?”
Some missions experts tell us that about 23 people die every 10 seconds, and 19 of them pass into a Christ-less eternity. Yeah right! Where in the world did they get that figure? I put more stock in my teenage son’s claim: “Dad, 95 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.” Polls have shown that most Americans believe in God, go to church, own a Bible, have a mother, and even eat apple pie. These people look like Christians to me. Furthermore, when I ask them if they are, they say they are. Isn’t that good enough?
5. Don’t make any enemies.
Did Jesus really say “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” in Matthew 10:34? If so, He really pours fuel on the fire by saying He wants to set a son against his father, daughter against her mother, etc., in the following verses. Did He truly intend for our commitment to Him to be stronger than our commitment to our families? I thought He wanted to unite families at all costs, not potentially separate them! I can’t believe my kind, sweet, polite Jesus wants those who follow Him and those who do not divided. My bumper sticker says: Pray for World Peace. How about yours?
I know they’ve doctored up history when they tell of the incredible faith and courage the 1st century Christians demonstrated as they were ripped apart by famished wild animals being cheered on by the bloodthirsty Coliseum crowd. They were used to seeing the victims screaming, cursing, and kicking as they were dragged in, but the Christians would not only walk calmly to the center of the arena singing hymns to God before their destruction, they would actually volunteer and line up to get the chance to die for Christ! No wonder the raucous mob would grow silent and, out of respect and total amazement, turn to each other and whisper, “See how these Christians die!” The Roman emperors were befuddled too as they pondered, “How do you destroy a faith, a movement, a person who is not afraid to die?”
I have a checkered past, though, with a history of huge mistakes, and some very painful scars I don’t want to dredge up — like the time a member of my fraternity exploded into my room early one morning while I was still asleep, rushed over to my bed, put his beer-breathed face right up against mine and screamed “If you ever cram your religion down one more pledge’s throat, I will knock the f*@# out of you!”
“Good morning to you too!” I thought.
I know 1 Peter 4:14 says “If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed.” If that’s a blessing, all I have to say is “Thanks, but no thanks!”
6. Let your life, not your words, be your witness.
OK, OK, I know Jesus spoke out and was put to death. But He was the Son of God. I know Paul and Peter and Stephen spoke out and it cost them their lives too. But they were special. I can’t compare myself to them. They were, like, really filled with the Holy Spirit and it sure seems like the Holy Spirit was a lot more powerful back then than He is now.
As a student, each time I would stand up at dinner and announce the time and location of that night’s “College Life” campus ministry meeting, a group of guys at the other end of the dining hall would mock me by announcing to everyone when that night’s “Wild Life” meeting would be held at the local tavern. I still wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat remembering the way they would laugh at me. Never again!
I understand Revelation 12:11 says the apostles overcame Satan because of “the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony” and that they “did not love their life even faced with death.” But, we can be smarter than they were by knowing when to keep our mouth shut. I call it “safe witnessing,” where I apply my poker philosophy: “You gotta know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em.”
Anyway, you don’t need to actually share the Gospel to make an impact. I prefer to just “let my light shine.” A smile on my face, a fish on my car, and a verse on my T-shirt will let them know the way to God. Right on?
7. Don’t even think about missions.
Hey, it’s a cold, dark, violent world out there. The nightly news anchors tell us that everyone hates us and resents our attitude, lifestyle and religion. Your mom and dad are right when they say, “You shouldn’t spend the summer in China or Africa, it’s too dangerous. What if you’re kidnapped? What if you get sick? What if the authorities find out you’re a missionary?”
Stay here this summer. Find a job. Make some money. Get a suntan. Have some fun. Hang out with your friends. Go to the beach. Be a college student. Enjoy it while it lasts. There’ll be plenty of time for missions trips later in life. Don’t make waves. You have so much going for you, why risk your future?
And if you do go, please don’t witness. You’re just there just to build houses, teach English and be a “do-gooder” American. Besides, it might be against the law. I know Peter told the authorities “we must obey God rather than men” in response to their ultimatum for him to quit preaching. But me, I’m into keeping the laws, and furthermore, isn’t a good Christian a good citizen too?
You see, I am on a one man crusade to stomp out any persecution in this country. I have my rights, you know! If anyone dares to discriminate against me or oppose me, I’m going to bring a lawsuit against them. I know the Bible says something about “if they slap you on one cheek turn the other or if they steal your coat, give them your shirt too,” but my role model is Popeye the Sailor Man, who says, “Tha’s all I can stands, and I can’t stands no more!”
But some say we should welcome persecution. Can you believe that? Some radicals even think we should pray for it. No way! Some right wing fundamentalists claim history shows the Church grows and thrives under persecution and becomes weak and ineffective when there is no opposition. I don’t care. I’m living for the here and now and I believe God is committed to blessing our country, protecting our country, keeping us out of harm’s way. Persecution? That’s surely for other less fortunate, less blessed, less wise countries than us. We are, after all, a great and godly Christian nation. Aren’t we?
For me, though, it’s out of sight, out of mind. The www.Persecution.com people claim 165,000 people are martyred each year for their Christian faith somewhere around the world. That’s hard to believe, isn’t it? I mean, no one on my campus has been killed this year because of their Christian faith. How ’bout on yours?
There’s no need for anyone to get worked up or fanatical about all this. Take it easy. Go play a video game. Go buy a romance novel. Go watch a sitcom or maybe plug in one of your favorite praise CD’s. Get your mind off of pain and persecution. The “P ” word — don’t even think about it. In fact, don’t worry — be happy.
Copyright 2004 Steve Shadrach. All rights reserved.