Persecution Comes to the Strong, the Weak, and the Fake

lamb-buoyancy-814278_640In America, we don’t yet have a practical grasp of persecution.

We don’t live daily in fear of our lives so for most of us, persecution is still a conversation we have over dinner tables and in small groups over Starbucks. We revealed our naivete recently by praying fervently for the release of Pastor Saeed Abedini but then stumbling when we learned of his struggles with some unattractive sins. The stumble showed what we don’t understand yet about persecution.

We seek heroes like baby ducks wanting to imprint on a mama, that’s natural. But as Christians, we have One who is our hero and really, we shouldn’t try to make fellow believers try to fit the same bill. Even when they’re imprisoned in the name of Jesus. Even when they hold up under torture for Jesus’ name. Even when they die in Jesus’ name. We sing that all the glory goes to Jesus but in practice, we try to spread it around and that can be a disservice to all.

The persecuted deserve our love, our commitment, our prayers, support, and advocacy but if we make heroes out of the persecuted, we’re sure to stumble again because the persecuted are just like the rest of us – a mixed bag. When ISIS or North Korea or any other terrorist group seeks to persecute Christians, they aren’t ever looking at the quality of our Christian walk. They terrorize the strong, the weak, and the fake so turning the persecuted into some kind of Christian celebrity role models doesn’t serve anyone.

The power behind these murderous persecutors, our true enemy, doesn’t give two cents about any one of us. To him, we’re pawns in his attempt to ruin everything that matters to Jesus. That’s his focus, Jesus Christ. Jesus should be our focus, too because persecution is about Jesus. It isn’t about individuals except as much as they operate under the name of Jesus. We know from scripture that not everyone operating under that name is even truly a Christian so it follows that not everyone imprisoned, tortured, or even killed in the name of Jesus is a Christian, or a particularly obedient one. It’s a dangerous game to make them into heroes simply because someone points a gun in their direction.

Love them. Support them. Serve them. Advocate for them but don’t mythologize them because which of us can stand up to that kind of scrutiny? In the end, it’s an unkindness we do to demand they be role models in addition to surviving imprisonment.

This is the conversation we could be having when we meet. Those who persecute in Jesus’ name don’t discriminate between the strong, the weak, or the fake, but the quality of our walk with Christ will surely make a difference to us when persecution comes.

If you’re faking your walk with Jesus, you might want to get out now. If you’re trying to limp along with one foot in the faith and one foot in the world, do you think that will serve you well when terrorists take you captive? If your faith is strong now in peace and safety, this is good, but are there ways that going deeper will benefit you and the body of Christ in preparation for times to come?

We did the right thing to pray for Pastor Abedini’s release and to pray for his family. We do the wrong thing when we turn our faces from him when we learn he struggles with sin, or to turn our faces from his wife when she cries out for help.

If tomorrow, persecution arrived on our doorsteps and we, along with the people in the pews beside us, were herded off to prisons because we identify as Christian, how would the faith we practice today serve us there? This isn’t a question to play as a game with your youth group, it’s one to ask yourself and prayerfully discuss with God because in a world with Kim Jong Un and ISIS, we don’t need heroes, we need spiritual lives marked by deeply rooted faith, knowledge of God’s Word, obedience, love, and prayer.

If the flag your life is flying is a Jesus flag, you could become a target of persecution at any time. Is the life you have with Christ worth suffering for? If not, then ask yourself some serious questions because persecution could come to you anyway. If it is, then go deeper, for Jesus’ sake and for your own, because that depth will serve you in times of peace and times of trouble alike.

I pray for Pastor Abedini and his family. Not because he’s a hero of the faith but because he, his wife and their children have suffered for Jesus’ name, because they are fellow travelers on the narrow road and have their struggles as I have mine, because Jesus tells me to love and to pray for others, because I, too, have been a recipient of grace.

Are we having these conversations, loved ones? Are we challenging and encouraging one another to live authentically, with losunset-50494_640ve and obedience, in Jesus’ name? Will how your living today serve you and others if persecution comes to your door? If not, what’s stopping you from making a change now?

Don’t waste energy seeking heroes when the only One we need wants to spend time with you and guide you this very minute. Jesus is so real, so revolutionary, so powerful, people murder to stop the spread of His name and He eagerly awaits the moment we ask to go deeper with Him. Make that moment now.

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1 Comment

    The Conversation

  1. Carla says:

    Thank you, Lori, for this message. We’ve followed Naghmeh’s posts for almost 2 years. I saw a faithful woman who gave up her life to pound on every door she could think of to get her husband’s plight before the public. Right around New Year’s she posted she was backing off and just praying. I feel this was the Holy Spirit preparing her for what she probably knew was coming. During the time Pastor Saeed was being held captive they BOTH had to walk by faith, and were strengthened by their stance. Naghmeh’s posts were followed by literally thousands, well-meaning I’m sure, offering prayers, encouragement and love. The MOMENT she ‘came clean’, she was greeted by horrible accusations—those same people who prayed for and encouraged her were now throwing stones at her. NO ONE knows their life but them and Abba. NO ONE has a right to judge in this matter except for Him. I pray we all hold this couple up, along with their children, for clarity, for wisdom, for abundant love and the faith that Abba can fix this and make their home one filled with love and respect. There but for the grace of God go I.