One week ago on Thursday on October 1, 2015, people around the United States were shocked and horrified by the news reports of a local student shooting up Umpaqua Community College in the state of Oregon.
According to various news reports, 7 people were severely injured and 10 people were killed including the gunman himself who committed suicide. When reading online about the shooting, I came across an article from The New York Post and an interview with a one of the victim’s parents on CNN, covering the fact that the gunman specifically targeted Christian students. “‘Are you a Christian?’ he would ask them,” says the father of one of the injured students, “‘And if you are a Christian, stand up.’ And they would stand up and he would say, ‘good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second.’ And then he shot and killed them.” After seeing this interview footage, the one thought that constantly was on mind throughout the day was the fact that this is what Biblical persecution looks like.
For us Christians that live here in the West, specifically the United States, the only persecution we hear about is what happens in the Middle East or in Third World Countries. We hardly ever hear about persecution here in the United States let alone experience it ourselves. In fact, we consider the threatening of our religious rights as a great persecution. I am not saying that it is not, but we exaggerate it to the point where we even believe that the United States was a Christian nation to begin with and see physical persecution as something foreign.
When we take a look at the Scriptures, we can see countless times where the Disciples of Christ died for the sake of Jesus and his Gospel. As Paul writes to his young Disciple Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:10-14, he says that, “You, however, followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystria—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all you desire to live a godly life in Christ will be persecuted while evil people and impostors will go from bad to worse. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it.”
In other parts of the Scriptures, Apostle Peter says that we will be blessed for suffering for righteousness (1 Peter 3:14) and Christ himself says that if we love Him, the world will hate us for it (John 15:18-19). When reading these passages, one must ask themselves, “Am I willing and ready to be persecuted for my faith?” Just because we live in a country where we have the human right to preach and openly live out our faith does not mean that it will not be taken away from us in the future. Furthermore, it also does not guarantee that all will agree our rights let alone beliefs and will do anything to stop us. Be aware that our life of comfort in this country will not always be a daily guarantee. None of these Christians who were killed knew this was coming yet still professed that Jesus Christ is Lord. Are we ready to do the same?
Adding on to being ready, are we also ready to forgive the persecutors? As many of us know, Jesus calls to pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44) but this more easier said that done. Of course we will experience grief, anger, frustration, and even a hardened heart towards those who persecute Christians. Regardless of how we feel and regardless of the judgment we feel that should be inflicted upon them, God calls us to forgive and pray for them. I pray that the families of the victims find it in their heart forgiveness and a spirit that looks to the Lord for help, guidance and comfort and I pray that we will do the same.
Let me be clear by stating that I am not suggesting we should live in a life of fear, waiting for persecution to happen. However, we have to be careful with the comfort we have become accustomed to here in the United States. While we pray for the families of our brothers and sisters in Christ who have gone home to be with The Lord, I believe it is very important for us to realize the suffering we will possibly face by living and preaching about our faith in Christ. This is an opportunity to really take a look at where we stand with Christ and if we truly believe what we claim to others.
“For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” – Philippians 1:21