By Joel Hess –
Stop whining about persecution
Christians in America have it relatively easy compared to most other environments; therefore we draw our stories of faith under fire from other parts of the globe. This call for awareness of persecution usually takes the form of not only a call to prayer but outrage and protests to our own government demanding that they do something about it! The most recent campaign focuses on the Iraqi Christians being marked with the Arabic letter ‘n’ designating families as being followers of the Nazarene, which is supposed to be a Muslim insult to those who hold Jesus as being more than a Nazarene.
The Arabic letter replaces pastors’ facebook profile pics like that funny whistled tune in the hunger games. Calls are made to politicians, letters are written to officials; all are crying, “Protect the Christians, stop the persecution, how can you let this happen?!”
Even as persecution grows in our own country, thinking of Hobby Lobby or the cake maker forced to participate in a marriage he believes is sin, many Christians fight to stop it: to make laws to protect Christians.
Unfortunately our cries for justice sound more like whining! I’m not speaking about those actually being persecuted mind you; but those who sit in their comfortable armchairs, flipping through cable channels and writing to their congressmen.
Now, for sure, it is right that we intervene when we can; that we lend a hand to our brothers and sisters in their time of need and, if possible, save them from torment. We should give a cup of water to our sister in chains!
However the tone of many Christian pundits sounds more like surprise and outrage. “This shouldn’t be happening! This is wrong! The world’s gone crazy!”
I hear little rejoicing in someone who dies for the Faith.
Yet, we find that exact sentiment in the early church beginning in the New Testament. Jesus tells his disciples they too would carry their cross. St. Stephen embraced it as he wouldn’t shut up before his murderers.
And I am still haunted by St. Ignatius who stopped those who wanted to stop his journey to his own death. About his inevitable martyrdom he writes:
“May I enjoy the wild beasts that are prepared for me. I pray that they would be found eager to rush at me, and I will also entice them to devour me speedily and not deal with me as some, whom out of fear they have not touched. If they are unwilling to assail me, I will compel them to do so. Pardon me; I know what is to my benefit. Now I begin to be a disciple. Let no one, of things visible or invisible, prevent me from attaining to Jesus Christ. Let fire and the cross; let wild beasts; let tearings, breakings, and dislocation of bones; let cutting off of limbs; let shatterings of the whole body; and let all the evil torments of the devil come upon me; only let me attain to Jesus Christ.” Letter to the Romans, Chapter 5.
It was seen as an honor by those who would be beheaded, burned, given to lions entertaining the crowds – all solely because they would not deny Jesus as God and Savior.
Ignatius says – now I BEGIN to be a disciple!
Not only was their death understood as not terminal because of Jesus, but they understood their death as giving witness to the Faith! Their calm demeanor before the sword testifies that they have met the risen Lord, they have tasted His reward, they see the new heaven and new earth! Their faith inspired many to the reality of Christ’s victory and gifts!
We have become so comfortable in America, having our cake and eating it too: being a Christian and enjoying earthly gain. When we see persecution in our country we mark it as if it is peculiar, unusual, injust. We complain about it, we pathetically try to go back to the good ole days when we were Caesar. Those days are dead, my friends, and I gladly embrace the future!
Let us instead embrace persecution and martyrdom, quietly. Let us even rejoice in it. Let us stop whining about injustice and unfairness. Let us be martyrs with our peaceful words and generous deeds. Let us gladly proclaim from the flames that Jesus lives, that we will live, that nothing can separate us from God who loves us!
Let us begin to be disciples.