There is an old joke that warns “Just because you are paranoid, doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you!”
For many Christians, the growing suspicion that their faith makes them a target is anything but a laughing matter.
Let’s face it, sometimes it is hard not to feel a bit like belonging to Jesus has painted a bulls eye on your back.
I will never forget the opening words to my first college class.
The professor looked intently at his fresh faced students in introductory psychology and said, “If you are one of those born again Christians you might as well drop this class right now. I hate you people.”
Could you imagine what would have happened if he had replaced the phrase “born again Christians” with “Koran reading Muslims”?
So why are believers set aside for “special” treatment at school, or work, or in their neighborhoods?
One school of thought is presented in this eye opening article that ran in today’s Christian Science Monitor.
Some British Christians feel oppressed in the public
High-profile cases involving Bible-sharing and prayer have raised
concerns. But many say that reining in certain expressions of faith is a
necessary compromise in a multicultural society.
LONDON – For a nation shaped by an overtly Christian heritage, Britain has apparently become a difficult place to be overtly Christian.
The conservative press bewails a steady erosion of Christian values. A member of Parliament has called for debate on “systematic and institutional discrimination toward Christians.” Even former Prime Minister Tony Blair recently let slip how aides would brusquely suppress any instinct he had to bring his faith into public view.
Now, a succession of ordinary Christians are finding this rule applies to them, too.
Earlier this month, Caroline Petrie, a nurse, was suspended for offering to pray for a patient. The case echoed another incident in which social worker Naphtali Chondol was fired for giving a Bible to a client.
Elsewhere, a teen was prohibited from wearing a chastity ring in school in a case redolent of British Airways’s move to forbid a check-in worker, Nadia Eweida, from wearing a cross. A university Christian group was banned for requiring that members attest to their belief in God. The requirement was considered discriminatory.
“There’s going to be lots more cases like this,” says Paul Diamond, a barrister specializing in religious liberties cases who represented both Ms. Petrie and Ms. Eweida. “Christians are a soft target – it’s easy to be nasty to them.”
Two key questions are raised by this increasingly overt hostility toward believers in Christ.
First, should we expect it?
The biblical answer is an unavoidable “yes.”
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet 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 keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. (John 15:18-21)
Let’s face it, seeing a nurse lose her job simply because she had the nerve to pray for a patient who wanted that kind of support seems crazy.
But no more crazy than the idea that we can find peace and fulfillment in this life without a relationship with the One Who created us.
Christian author Jeffrey Van Vonderan once said, “If you say the same sort of things that Jesus said, to the same sort of people He said them to, you’re going to get what He got.”
The second question is even more important.
How should we respond when we are the target of a non believer’s hostility?
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. (I Peter 4:12-16)
Peter’s practical advice is hard to miss.
Some people will treat us like jerks because we are Christians.
But when we suffer let’s make sure it’s not because we’ve acted like jerks while claiming to be Christians.
Our culture doesn’t mind making blasphemous movies, lowering grades and ending people’s careers because we follow Jesus.
We don’t have mass riots when our tax dollars fund a display of a crucifix in a bottle of urine.
We don’t take out mob style contracts on people who make big bucks on books that say our faith is a form of mental illness and that sharing it in Sunday School is tantamount to child abuse.
We are soft targets.
But there is nothing “soft” about rising above such hurtful attacks.
In fact, the power and grace to refrain from becoming just another complaining member of the victim-of-the-day club is a wonderful way to show the world that our faith in Jesus is the real deal.
Are you catching grief because you love the Lord? Make this powerful principle your compass heading:
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)
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