Sharing the Sufferings of Christ By George Stroh January 9, 2012
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. (1 Peter 4:12,13)
Christians are experiencing increased hostility and persecution today around the globe, even in the United States. It is not "politically correct" to malign any other religion, but it has become acceptable, even fashionable, to attack Christians, their doctrines and their values. According to the well-respected World Christian Encyclopedia, approximately 100,000 Christians were martyred last year alone. That is about one killed every five minutes simply because they openly and boldly proclaim the name of Christ Jesus.
The persecution of the followers of Jesus Christ is, of course, nothing new. In the publication World Christian Trends AD 30 - AD 2200 (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2001), it is estimated that up to the year 2000 there had been some 70 million Christian martyrs, of which 45 million were concentrated in the 20th century. Jesus told His disciples what to expect; "Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man (Jesus). Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets." (Luke 6:22,23)
Today, most of those martyred Christians are in Islamic dominated parts of the world. But even in the more so called "civilized" western countries, intolerance and persecution of Christians is on the rise. Even the young and popular NFL football star, Tim Tebow is receiving a lot of criticism for publicly expressing his love for Christ. Apparently, many people, even some who profess to be Christians themselves, are offended when Tim Tebow and others are too open and expressive about their Christian faith.
Why is Christianity offensive to so many people? I think for the same reason that the Jewish leaders hated Jesus Christ and wanted Him crucified. Jesus said "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through me."(John 14:6) The Bible says that only Christians, those who have been released from their sins by the shed blood of Christ, can come to the one and only living God. Every other religion is false and those who deny the person and work of the divine Lord Jesus Christ, will be judged for their unbelief.
True Christianity is exclusive and therefore offensive to those who reject Christ. Those who hate and persecute Christ will also naturally hate and persecute His followers. As Christians, our words and actions are always to be consistent with our faith in Christ. Some suffer justly for their bad behavior. But when you suffer just because you love the Lord Jesus Christ and want others to know Him, keep on rejoicing; Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.(1 Peter 4:15.16). If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (1 Peter 4:14) Maranatha!