This past month, 322 Christians around the globe were martyred for their faith.
This past month, 214 churches and Christian properties across the earth were destroyed.
In the past 5 years, the Christian population of Iraq has been cut down from 1.5 million to 300,000. Christians there have either been martyred or they’ve fled the country under great duress, fearing for their families’ lives. That’s an 80% population decrease.
It’s hard to wrap our heads around global Christian suffering if we don’t necessarily experience it firsthand. But we need to carefully reflect upon Paul’s words to the Philippians. To be of “one mind” and “one spirit” means to share in one another’s victories and sufferings (Philippians 1:27). To know Christ is to be intimately connected to His body, the Church. When our Christian brothers and sisters rejoice, we rejoice. But where they suffer, we must lament, and lend every help that we possibly can.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake… Blessed are you when others revile and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:10-11).
It seems clear that Jesus carefully and intentionally made this proclamation on the heels of verse 9: “Blessed are the peacemakers…” While we all are called to actively engage in the work of peacemaking, this does not guarantee earthly peace. In seeking peace, followers of Christ are blessed and so is the world around them. But not everyone will respond to our invitations and actions in kind.
Jesus offers assurance and comfort for His followers: the persecuted will be blessed. While the world offers indifference, or at times outright hostility, the promise of this beatitude is that those who suffer will be lifted up, in this life or the next. The suffering, the persecuted, the downtrodden may not always receive immediate, visible justice, but the heart of Jesus’ teaching is that God sees them all and promises that they will be blessed.
There is no suffering so great that He cannot heal it. There is no difficulty so trivial that His heart does not bear it with us.
The earliest Christians helped to faithfully establish the Church in the midst of great suffering. They were following in the footsteps of our Lord and Savior, who redeemed the world through His own persecution, suffering, and sacrificial death. To follow Jesus is to take up our crosses.
There is victory and eternal glory in following Jesus. But that doesn’t mean that there won’t be trials in this life. In fact, it usually means quite the opposite.
I find it very challenging to be thankful for suffering or trials. Yet I know that when we encounter difficulties for the name of Christ, we participate in Kingdom work with Him. We are not alone in those moments. Rather, we are united to Christ and His body in a mystery that stretches far beyond our understanding. For that mystery, and that intimacy, we can and should be thankful. It’s not an easy posture to adopt, but it is a mode of thinking and living that will bring a sense of internal peace as we face difficult moments.
Written By Andrew Stoddard