Yesterday I posted an article written by the Christian news wire that told of the shocking yet honorable death’s of two young men sharing the gospel in Florida. Though it was shocking to the author, and though he cried out for justice, and media coverage that would be given to any other individuals killed for their religious affiliation or belief, I find myself not terribly shocked,and not terribly fearful.
Prior to Constantine’s decision to make Christianity the national religion of the empire, the early church suffered horrendously. Eusebius, a historian of the time tells of people being boiled to death, fed to lions, pulled apart, and being forced to sit in a metal chair while being cooked to death. The most horrifying for me as I read was the man who was asked to recant his faith in Christ under the threat of having boiling hot lead poured down his throat. Eusebius tells us that this man, like many others, did not recant, he would not substitute Caesar as lord, for Jesus as Lord, and so that day he lost his life…in a most disturbing and painful way. I have a vivid imagination, often times too much so, and I just kept feeling the heat in my mouth…throat…and chest as I read, trying to grasp in what world a human being could do this to another, and in what world a man could so faithfully love his Jesus, that he would give everything…even unto death, for the sake of His name.
Do I believe the death’s of these two men are the ushering in of Barbary of this nature? The likely answer is no, but what I do believe is that this incident, however tragic, marks a new age for the American Church. One in which the faithful and the fakes will be distinguished clearly. In the days that Eusebius wrote, it would be foolish and deadly to say that you were a follower of Jesus when you really weren’t. The sad reality is that since about 325 a.d. there has been an influx into the Church of casual “Christians” who served a Christ of convenience. But with the threat of death looming for even sharing your faith, this practice seems to be soon coming to an end as Christendom dies, and a post-Christian era emerges.
My hope is that the church would rise, and those that truly belong to Christ would stand firm in the face of all possible persecutions, be they personal, social, or governmental.
This incident, however terrifying for the author of yesterday’s article and others, is full of potential. For years men and women all over the world have given their lives, literally, for the cause of the gospel. The fact that it is just reaching America is in itself a startling reality…but it is here nonetheless. Do you belong to Christ? I hope that your lips are not close to Him while your heart is far off, because if it is, the time will come when it will be weighed and measured by similar incidents of verbal, physical, and emotional persecution,and if you are not His, the world will know….but more importantly, so will you.