Today in church, the preacher shared about the persecuted church. He states first the definition of religious freedom as defined by Paul Marshall.
I couldn’t find it, so here’s the definition from Wikipedia which is rather to the point
Freedom of religion or Freedom of belief is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance; the concept is generally recognized also to include the freedom to change religion
And persecution is the denial of any of these rights. He goes on to say that 200 million Christians live under the shadow of persecution, ranging from the mildest workplace discrimination to the most extreme cases of torture, rape, kidnappings, imprisonment and execution.
Another shocking statistic was that 300 Christians die every day for their belief in Jesus Christ. 50% of all Christian martyrs died in the last century.
This is the world in which we live in.
Luke 21:17 says that the world will hate us (followers of Jesus) simply because they hate Him. Christians are being persecuted, and these are all attacks against God himself.
In Acts 9, Saul was actively persecuting the earliest followers of the Way, until on the Damascus road Jesus met him and said “Why do you persecute ME?”
His persecutions were a direct affront to God himself.
Also in 2 Tim 3:12, Paul writes, everyone who desires to live a godly life will be persecuted. See also 1 John 3:13 where it says the world hates us.
What do we do then?
We have to remember those brothers and sisters in Christ who suffer greatly for his name. Pray for them, support them and serve alongside them.
And if we ourselves face persecution, remember we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Bless and do not curse.
On closing, the preacher told a story of a church in Belarus that decided to build a church by converting an old nuclear silo site built by the Nazis in the Second World War. As the builders were clearing the land, they found letters from World War Two enclosed in an empty shell casing. In it, the letters disclosed how the original inhabitants had a church demolished by the Nazi invaders who then forced them to build the nuclear silo on the exact spot where their church stood. However, these people believed and prayed that one day a church would stand in its place again! And now indeed their prayer was fulfilled. Hallelujah.
Indeed God will build his church and the gates of hell shall never prevail against it.
This gospel shall be preached to the ends of the earth, and then the end will come.