I’ve been preaching a series titled “Leaving Good Things Behind.” Acts shows us that for a church to thrive, Christians must even leave good ministries
behind. The apostles delegated their ministry for widows to 7 men so they could focus on preaching. One of them, Stephen, was killed on the job. He spoke out against the authorities and became the 1st Christian martyr.
On May 11, Vice President Mike Pence warned a crowd of Liberty University (my alma mater) students to prepare to be shunned for their faith: “Throughout most of American history, it’s been pretty easy to call yourself Christian, but things are different now.”
Globally, Christians face incredible discrimination. In North Korea and many Muslim-governed countries, Christians risk imprisonment and death for their faith. The Christian community in Mosul, Iraq, was exiled, and many Christians are still persecuted by ISIS. American Christians with a global perspective on their faith rightly identify themselves as a part of a persecuted people even today.
American society grows more secular, while public symbols of Christianity disappear from the public square. Christian influence has disappeared from public education. We hear stories of college faculty shaming Christian students, zoning laws that restrict building expansion, tensions between Christian values and public policy, and of course the war on Christmas.
But American Christians should not confuse their gradual loss of political influence and privilege with persecution. They still receive deference that is taken for granted: holidays in the academic calendar, prayers at presidential inaugurations, and the right to a hearing when unfairly treated.
The New Testament tells stories of actual martyrs who did not play the victim: As Paul died in prison he writes to a young preacher, “share with me in the sufferings for the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:7-8). When Peter and John were beaten for their faith, they “rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). Stephen showed boldness and compassion as he became the first Christian martyr (Acts 6-7).
Jesus did not promise a life of fairness and privilege, so let’s not complain when we don’t get it.