Christians are being ignored and marginalized in America, ridiculed in industrialized nations, driven underground and persecuted in multiple countries, and slaughtered by militant terrorists and rogue regimes in Africa and Southeast Asia.
On Palm Sunday, two Coptic Christian churches were targeted in Egypt by Islamic terrorists. The first church attacked was St. George Church in Tanta, a city approximately 80 miles north of Cairo on the Nile Delta. The bomb that exploded in Tanta killed at least 27 people.
Three hours later another bomb went off in front of St Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, killing another 17 worshippers.
According to NBC News, “Egypt’s Ministry of Interior said the bomber in Alexandria belonged to the same terrorist cell that killed 30 people in December when it blew up a chapel next to Egypt’s main Coptic Christian cathedral in Cairo.”
In Egypt going to worship in a Christian church is risky business. On any given Sunday a service of praise and adoration could turn into a day of persecution and annihilation.
The distance between Atlanta and Cairo, Egypt “as the crow flies” is 6,362 miles. We may tend to think what happens in Egypt doesn’t really impact us. We falsely conclude that since we don’t know much about Coptic Christians and since Egypt is too far away to be on our radar, the slaughter of Christians in that far-away land is too insignificant and remote to affect us.
Dr. Michael Youssef, a native of Egypt and pastor of Atlanta’s Church of the Apostles, spoke at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s chapel and highlighted the risk posed by radical Islam. He stated, “Islam today, particularly in the form of Islamists, is one of the two most dangerous threats to the Christian church. The second one is, of course, secular humanism.”
Then Youssef added, “The challenge for us Bible-believing orthodox Christians is to articulate the Christian faith lovingly, thoughtfully, truthfully, and fearlessly. Remember this, that whatever we do, we must never ever compromise the fact that there is no name under heaven given to man by which they must be saved other than Jesus.”
I agree with Dr. Youssef, but in America the persecution of Christians has not yet expressed itself in physical maltreatment, but in Christians losing their jobs because they have articulated their faith or chosen to live out their faith. For example, Dr. Eric Walsh and Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran lost their jobs because they dared to express their biblical views on traditional marriage. Barronelle Stutzman, a Washington florist, has been sued because she refused to compromise on her Christian convictions and fears she will not be able to live out her faith without government punishment or interference.
I also recently read about a young university student named John who was assigned to write an opinion piece. The required theme was “traditional marriage.” John felt it was his duty to express his honest opinion and explain how he was grounded in his faith. The professor was annoyed that John claimed the support of the Bible for his views. The paper was rejected as a “sermon,” and given an F with the words “I reject your dogmatism” written at the bottom by way of explanation.
When state governmental leaders fail to provide necessary religious liberty legislation and a state’s institutions of higher education discriminate against Christians for expressing their Christian views, one has to wonder what will be the next infringement against the “free exercise” clause of the First Amendment.
Some of you reading this may think I have some kind of persecution complex, but I do not. I have never expected the Christian life to be a picnic. Jesus never said the Christian life would be all honey and no bees, no work and all ease. In fact He said quite the opposite.
The New Testament portrays Jesus as preparing his disciples for the reality of persecution from the very early parts of his ministry. Consider what he taught, for example, in Matthew 5:10-12:
“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (NASB).”
I don’t know when persecution will come to America with all of its fury, but in the meantime we must pray for the persecuted church around the world, focus more attention on serving the suffering bride of Christ, continue to fight for the preservation of religious liberty in America, and prepare the people in our churches to be “steadfast, unmovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord.”