‘If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.’ – John 15.18From Sam Lomas:
You may have seen on the news recently that Pope Francis has made a historic visit to Iraq, focusing on many holy sites previously destroyed or damaged by the recent conflict with IS. The visit has drawn much needed attention to the impact IS had on Iraqi Christians who have lived in that area since the first century.
IS had completely desecrated churches and Christian religious sites in that region, beheading statues, burning churches and planting booby-trap bombs. It is thought that tens of thousands of Christians fled IS control, while those who remained in their historically Christian home faced having their property stolen, choosing between paying tax, converting to Islam or facing death.
Reading of such events makes me increasingly thankful that St Pat’s is committed to supporting our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world through the work of our mission partner, Open Doors. It is so good to think that as part of the CentreForward project, 5% of donations and 5% of the sale of 47 Park Hill Road will go towards the needs of persecuted Christians. When we read of what others face for following Jesus – this is most certainly money well spent.
That being said, the truth is, when I read these horrific reports and stories coming from places like Iraq, I feel a sense of helplessness, but also, a sense of not having the perfect explanation for such suffering. Perhaps this is why, in the confusion and struggle to answer the ‘why’ question, a sense of peace can be found in these words from Jesus:
“if the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”
By God’s grace, for the time being I am just an onlooker to such events. But Jesus isn’t. Jesus has been in the midst of such persecution and hatred. He has scars that show the hatred He received. I suspect that for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world there is something strangely glorious about suffering for Jesus’ sake.
That may sound like a paradox. But it is true that persecuted Christians know Jesus in way that I do not. They have a shared experience with our Saviour that I do not. And my guess is that they are better off for it. As Peter writes, ‘If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.’ (1 Peter 4.14).
What should we do now? Pray & educate.
- Pray for our brothers and sisters who face such trouble – remember that Christians are the most persecuted people group in the world.
- Educate yourself via Open Doors. At 4:Twelve over the next few weeks we are going to be considering the persecuted church using Open Doors resources. Perhaps this could be something for your home group or family?