Some are saying, “They were in a church. They were praying. Therefore prayers do not work.” Christians have answers for those kinds of things. Why would God allow suffering or persecution to touch his people? Would a good God allow that? People have a lot of presumptions about God; ways they think he would need to be before being worthy of a religion. They think, he would never allow them to suffer. Suffering is the first thing a good God would not allow.
Others are saying that “This proves that it’s time to take away weapons from the people. This could never have happened if there were Gun Control laws.” When we see what’s happening in places like Chicago, with the strongest gun control laws in the country, and more than 400 gun related murders a year, mostly by illegally armed assailants against unarmed victims, we see how those arguments tend to fail. Even the assailant in the Sutherland Springs attack was illegally armed, making arguments about safety assured through disarmament unconvincing. But it’s all more complicated than that.
They know that Christians tend to oppose restricting their access to protective weaponry and it seems a good time to use that against us. As low as it is for political opponents to take advantage of a tragedy like this to advance their political agenda, we still need to answer their arguments.
It’s been said that we should take the attack as one with its motive in domestic violence and not in religious hatred but it has been established that the attacker held to an aggressive form of leftist atheism. A known atheist that publicly expressed hatred toward the Christian religion and Christians themselves went into a church, on Sunday, during the church service, and killed the Pastor first, then the children, then everyone he could kill, including people he knew and people he didn’t know.
I understand the urge by secularists to vanilla the murders by blaming mental illness or describing this as a case of domestic violence but there is little possibility that either of those theories could explain these events. The magnitude is simply too extraordinary.
There is nothing to imply that the shooter was insane or incapable of exercising human reason. His decisions were morally evil, but rational. We need to be careful about excusing this kind of horror by implying that really, no one is responsible. Blame is a function of responsibility. Even in the courts, insanity is not a defense that absolves an actor of moral culpability. For that, one would need to be truly incapable of grasping reality. That’s not what happened in Sutherland Springs.
Those that died yesterday at 1st Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs are Christian martyrs. They died being persecuted for their faith. They knew Christ and were targets for oppression and violence because of their holiness and Christian love. Their hope was offensive to the world, and the world took their lives, but they left this world and are with their God and even now in peace with Jesus Christ. I know this perspective will be hard for irreligious people to see – the beauty through the tragedy – but for the Christian death is not the end. We have more to live for than just this life. For someone that has only this life in mind death can seem the worst possible thing, but for us, things are more complicated. We look forward to the next life without losing the importance of this one. We are lovers of life but death is not the worst thing that could happen.
Some are using the tragedy as evidence that the right to bear arms should be taken away from Christians. They say should be done for our own protection. This kind of reasoning that dominates atheistic humanism; they create the forum for the persecution and then offer cures that intensify its effects. But historically our ability to defend ourselves from violent oppression is one of our primary reasons for maintaining our access to self-defense.
In Egypt, before the fall of Mubarak, Christians held an awkward but stable position in the secularized Islamic society. With the collapse and meager reformation of the government they are now largely unarmed and unprotected. Murdered in the streets, enslaved, their churches destroyed, their families broken, and a government that will not and cannot protect them. This is a common state of affairs for Christians as the world’s most persecuted religious group and there’s little doubt that kind of oppression would develop here if we let it. The anti-christian political groups seethe with a strange kind of intensity. They see us and our faith as the cause of many social and political ills, harming them through our mere presence.
Christians are a non-violent people but have a strong commitment in cases of self-defense and the defense of others. We oppose state-sanctioned disarmament because states have historically been the strongest persecutors of Christians and the church (the church itself has also been a common persecutor of Christians using the state as its proxy). The American system is the way it is largely due to the experiences of religious peoples creating a forum for the freedom of the faith and practice. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”, meaning that the state has no powers to advance or restrict the status of any particular denomination against the others. Madison, who wrote these words, was a Princeton trained Presbyterian who understood what he was writing. He was keeping the powers of the state out of the affairs of the church because such leads inevitably to the corruption of the church and the persecution of the Christian. We oppose Christians not having a right to arm themselves because we depend on each other to protect our families from abuse, murder, slavery, religious restriction and the seizure of our property. We trust God and we trust each other but we do not trust the world, politics or the goodwill of the community.
If there is anything that Christians have it is a deep understanding of history and so perspective on our time and place in the world. The intensity of the worldwide persecution of Christians is at its historical peak. The evangelization of the world has never been more successful. There are more people becoming Christians now than at any time before in human history. With that, we have seen a worldwide disruption of historic borders, political structures, and personal relationships. Christ is pressing against places in the culture and geographical dominions once thought safe havens from the cross and its Christian morality.
As the pressure grows the anxiety and hysteria of the responses grow with it. The Contemporary American Humanist is becoming a wrathful, violent revolutionary but not without reason. They see things changing with an increasing inertia but with less and less tangible effect at opposing the faith through their traditional methods. With this, there has been a turn in the conscience of the American left as the fog of non-violence and toleration melts away and is replaced with rage. Now, Christians cannot be controlled, legislated, restricted to private religious expressions and expelled from the institutions but will need to be re-educated, imprisoned, have their children saved from madness and placed under secular caretakers that are immune to “religion” and its negative influences. The American Humanist is becoming self-actualized. The Christian faith seems to them something uncontrollable. Something that has an energy to it that is confusingly resistant to scientific explanation, ridicule and sarcasm. Religion has an almost supernatural grip on the American culture and perhaps the human race itself. It is to the Humanist, a disease that simply must be cured and by any means necessary, had they the power to enforce their will.
Without doubt, this is the time of the greatest worldwide persecution of Christians in human history.
Did you think we would be immune to that suffering? We are perhaps a little better insulated but not immune.
There will be martyrs.
Christ divides. He divides the entire world between love and hate, service and self, grace and worldly power. Attacks on churches happen just about every day; they don’t happen as often in the United States so they have the tendency to shock the conscience. It’s not that the Christian wonders how such a thing can happen as much as that we are surprised when it happens in a largely Christianized society. We need to recognize that that’s a situation that can change in a single generation. The hostility toward Christ, and so toward his people, tends to ebb and flow through time, and we are in a time of increasingly severe persecutions.
Countries like Egypt, Turkey, Germany, and Ethiopia were all at some time “Christian” nations with a majority Christian population and a generally Christian conscience that are now places of fear and oppression.
from “Christianity Today”
“Approximately 215 million Christians experience high, very high, or extreme persecution.
North Korea remains the most dangerous place to be a Christian (for 14 straight years).
Islamic extremism remains the global dominant driver of persecution, responsible for initiating oppression and conflict in 35 out of the 50 countries on the 2017 list.
Ethnic nationalism is fast becoming a major driver of persecution. “While this took an anti-establishment form in the West, in Asia it took an anti-minorities form, fueled by dramatic religious nationalism and government insecurity. It is common—and easy—for tottering governments to gain quick support by scapegoating Christians.”
The total number of persecution incidents in the top 50 most dangerous countries increased, revealing the persecution of Christians worldwide as a rising trend.
The most violent: Pakistan, which rose to No. 4 on the list for a level of violence “exceeding even northern Nigeria.”
The killings of Christians in Nigeria saw an increase of more than 62 percent.
The killings of Christians were more geographically dispersed than in most time periods studied. “Hitting closer to home, 23 Christian leaders in Mexico and four in Colombia were killed specifically for their faith,” said Open Doors of the “rare” event.
The worst increase: Mali, which moved up the most places on the list from No. 44 to No. 32.
Asia is a new center of concern, with persecution rising sharply in Bangladesh, Laos, and Bhutan, and Sri Lanka joining the list for the first time.” 1
And Jesus warned us. He warned us again and again. I’m sorry if your faith was presented to you as a way to have all of the good things without any of the bad, but that is not the faith that Jesus taught us. The faith he taught us is full of love, hope, joy and peace but within the context of this world. The faith is goodness and light, holiness and grace but those of the world will be angry with us every day. Every time they see us happy and full of light they will irresistibly foment an anger deep inside their conflicted soul. A person cannot be at peace until they are at peace with God, and that God-shaped void they carry will burn in them insatiably. There are supernatural events going on here and the sides in the great and cosmic conflict will be pressing against each other every day.
Here below are some places in the Bible that teach us about how we should view our persecutions by the world:
2 Timothy 3:12
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.
Matthew 5:44 ESV
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
1 Peter 4:12-14
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
1 Peter 3:17
For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
1 Peter 3:14
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
1 Peter 3:16
Having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man
1 John 3:13
Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
2 Corinthians 4:8-12
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
2 Corinthians 12:10
For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
1 Peter 4:16
Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
1 Peter 4:19
Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. …
1 Peter 4:4
With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you;
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
1 Peter 4:14
If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
They hate him who reproves in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks the truth.
1 Peter 4:1
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,
Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.
And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.
And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
1 John 3:1
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.
And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now.
Who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.
Many are my persecutors and my adversaries, but I do not swerve from your testimonies.
Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered,
“‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.
I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.
Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.
And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. When I saw her, I marveled greatly.
“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. “‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.
“But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them.
And if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
1 Peter 5:8
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8-9
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
Strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
Yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.
They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.
And not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,
Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews.
1 Kings 19:2
Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.”
But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district.
I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
2 Timothy 3:2
For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.