Most of you reading this are in the U.S. or another developed country. You obviously have an internet connection, probably have food in your fridge, a roof over your head, and a car. Your government may pass laws you disagree with on moral grounds because of your religion, but you’re likely not in any real danger of ISIS breaking down your door and beheading you if you don’t convert to Islam. You’re probably not subject to being arrested for passing out Bibles. And the odds of you being truly persecuted (targeted for your faith and subject to imprisonment, beatings or other corporal punishment, unfair trials, exile, death, forced into a labor camp, etc.) are slim, aren’t they?
What happens when something is easy, though? We have a natural human tendency to take it for granted. People walk all over the nice guy because he does things for people and doesn’t ask for what he wants in return, so it’s easy to take advantage of him. People win the lottery and the majority are back at work within a few years because they don’t know what to do with so much. And studies have found that people who receive education for free are generally more likely to quit or not take the course seriously. Why should it be different with Christianity?
I wish I were a braver man, so that I could honestly pray for more trials and embrace more rejection for my faith. I’m so used to having it easy that I don’t really know how I’d respond if there was a knife to my throat or, perhaps worse, the ever-present fear that there would one day be a knife, or that one day, my wife and kids could be executed in front of my eyes to punish me for my faith.
It’s so easy to forget how good we have it. We forget how rough it can be in other countries. Yet it’s this easy environment that breeds the complacency that has become the hallmark of the American church. We go to the service on Sunday and, for those who go early, we half-jokingly tell ourselves we’re a little holier than the later crowd for giving up our extra sleep. If you regularly blog or leave comments on others’ blogs, you probably know the indignation that boils up when someone attacks something you said. Or you may be embarrassed to admit you’re a Christian because others might not like you as much and you just don’t want to rock the boat.
There’s nowhere in the Bible where it says Christianity is a one-way ticket to an easy life. 2 Timothy 3:12 tells us that everyone who wants to follow God with a whole heart will suffer persecutions for it.
One of the strengths of the churches in China, North Korea, and others where Christians are actually persecuted is that those in it are all on fire. They have to be, because there is too much at risk to take going to church lightly, to treat it as a social club or as a way to look down on others because of their tremendous righteousness. This means that while there are new Christians, and while I’m sure all struggle with sin still and many have false ideas about Scripture because of a lack of Bibles or illiteracy, their hearts are all devoted to God, meaning they’re not driving others away with their judgmentalism or lukewarmness.
I know that it’s easy to say, “Bring it on!” to persecution when I know good and well it won’t really be brought here. Honestly, I’m not sure I’m ready for it if it were, but I know this: I want to be ready for it. I want to have a heart that burns for God so strongly that, despite the cost, I am His, fully and forever.