Last Thursday, October 1, 2015, was my son’s fourth day as a college freshman. It was also the fourth day of college for several of the men and women who died or were injured on that day in the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. Early reports indicated that one or more victims were asked their religion and, if they confessed to being a Christian, were shot in the head.
As I watched the news reports last week, my heart broke for those parents who would never hold their children again. With guilty gratitude I thanked God that my own son was still safe and alive on his college campus.
I’ve often wondered what I would say or do if I were ever faced with having to renounce my faith in order to stay alive on this planet. While intriguing, the idea always seemed highly improbable, even ludicrous. Because I deemed the odds of my having to make this choice to be about the same as the odds of my being struck by lightning, it was easy to tell myself that of course I would never deny Jesus just to save my own skin.
With recent attacks against Christians here in the United States and around the world, this once unimaginable scenario has become a bit more realistic. If such a possibility still seems inconceivable to you, consider that it was only a few short years ago that we considered it equally improbable that Christians in the United States would be mocked, ridiculed, ostracized, discriminated against, politically marginalized, financially penalized, hated, imprisoned and shot for protecting the lives of unborn babies, supporting the Bible’s definition of marriage between one man and one woman and following Jesus Christ.
While targeted physical attacks against Christians in our country still remain isolated events, they are becoming more frequent and can no longer simply be dismissed. While the United States was founded on Biblical principles, that foundation has been crumbling for decades and is now at risk of total collapse.
It is likely that Christians in our country will soon face serious persecution for simply living their lives in accordance with the Word of God. The waves of persecution that have overwhelmed Christians elsewhere in the world at other times in history are not just lapping at American shores, but are swiftly rising high as the tsunami sirens blare, warning believers to be ready to stand firm on the Rock.
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” 2 Timothy 4:3
“For these are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction. They say to the seers, “See no more visions!” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!” Isaiah 30:9-11
In light of this new reality for American Christians, what are we to do? Shrink back? Cower in fear? Play it safe and remain silent? No, no, no! Now more than ever we must stand up and be counted for the cause of Christ. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:
We must remember the gospel on which we have taken our stand and share it with others: that Christ died for our sins according the Scriptures, that he was buried and that he was raised again on the third day. And if Christ has been raised from the dead, so will we! We must live like we believe this or else our belief is in vain and our faith is futile. “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” 1 Corinthians 15:19. “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.’” 1 Corinthians 15:32.
But we know that in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. Death has been swallowed up in victory! For that reason, we must stand firm and always give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because we know that our labor in the Lord is not in vain.
“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13-14.