Listening with intent to learn is a critical part of my psyche. So I pay attention to not to spite or counter but to learn and, if needed, express my views on any subject in context. Even though some people engage in discourses that are sensitive with the intention to intimidate I keep my response without bias or hostility. One of such scenarios played out recently.
In an online brainstorming session with some noblemen from Islam and Christian faiths on ideas on how to keep our young generation from religious manipulation and radicalization by atrocious leaders, scholars and overcome religious intolerance in the 21st century, a gentleman thought otherwise when I said the media reports one religion as the fastest growing religion but fails to report the other as the most persecuted religion. When asked why he thinks otherwise, he said no record exists that Christians are being persecuted.
A survey by Open Doors, an organization founded in 1955 to assist persecuted Christians, found out that more than 7,100 Christians were killed in 2015 for “faith-related reasons,” an increase of 3,000 from the previous year. The group’s report defines Christian persecution “as any hostility experienced as a result of one’s identification with Christ”. It further reported that persecution ranged from imprisonment, torture, beheadings and rape to the loss of home and assets, the loss of a job, or even rejection from a community.”
My intention is not to spark a debate on persecution. It is to challenge the apathy we Christians pay to the plight of the persecuted. The Bible says “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of,” 2 Timothy 3:12 to 14. (New International Version)
How much have we sustained what we have learnt from Christ and the early church? One of the most crippling concepts to have pervaded the church over the 21st century is the notion that being a Christian is about “swag” or “style”. There is nothing wrong with personal “swag” and “style” but making it the “face” or “Standard’’ of Christianity may lead many to have a skewed view and unrealistic ideas of what or who they need to be or can become in Christ. We seem to have failed to notice that this impression has only shifted our attention to needless competition with Hollywood
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesian 4:12 to 13. (NIV)
The goal is that the entire body of Christ (The Church) will grow to unity, maturity, and Christ-likeness instead of working against and ignoring each other. The gospel was extended to us and needs to be extended through us (The present day Church). Persecuted churches and Christians need more than our prayers. They need our support in all areas. Use what you’ve got in the work of service toward other believers and Non-Christians. In that way, the church will grow to maturity in Christ.