Today’s Reading: John 16:1-2 (NIV)
1 [Jesus said,] “All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. 2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.”
When Jesus spoke these important words to His disciples, they probably didn’t fully grasp the implications and consequences of accepting Jesus as Meshuah, their long-awaited Savior. How these words have proven themselves over and over again throughout world history. How many thousands of believers have died in 2008, simply because they profess that Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior?
Just last month in Mexico, a mother, father and child were brutally killed by their next-door neighbor, convinced that his young daughter’s ailment was the result of Christian faith and practice, comparing its beliefs to the practice of witchcraft. In Saudi Arabia, a young woman is murdered by her brother, a Muslim cleric, for sharing her faith in Jesus Christ. Religious persecution continues to devastate Christian believers in India, after the recent assassination of a prominent Hindu World Council leader. The Christian community has been targeted for this crime, and, as a result, Christian churches and orphanages, the elderly, young women and children are being murdered. If you want to learn more about religious persecution happening around the world today, go to www.persecution.com.
Shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion in Jerusalem, Saul of Tarsus began persecuting Christians by order of the High Priest. He stopped at nothing to hunt down and kill new Christian converts and their families. Saul was convinced that he was doing the right thing. It took a holy encounter with the risen Christ, before Saul’s eyes were opened to the Truth.
I have not personally experienced the extreme religious persecution of many of my Christian brothers and sisters around the world; yet, I daily grieve for the deceased and their families, asking the Father to restore His peace to our broken and fragmented world. American citizens have held firm to its First Amendment rights in freedom of religion, established by the US Constitution in 1787. It has become very clear to me that our religious freedoms have never been free. We continue to pay a price for our freedom to choose.
A burning question rises up from the pit of my belly this morning, as I ask myself this pointed question: Would I profess faith in Jesus Christ if I knew that my family’s lives were in imminent danger? Jesus gave us fair warning so that we should not fall away but remain faithful, even to death. This morning, I pray that I may be found a faithful follower, holding firm to His Word, especially in times of persecution.
Grace and peace,
Faith UMC - St. Charles, MO
© Copyright 2008, Deb Spaulding
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