Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. Matthew 5:12
When we are in the process of accomplishing a manual task in the kitchen or a professional one or any painful task in any sphere , we do not expect anyone to disturb us and unlovingly squash our achievement . We can show our annoyance and respond with our biting unfettered rough and tough hands and feet . However when we are performing our dedicated Spiritual Ministry in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ , we are informed by the Word of God that vicious Persecution of various forms , in certain locations , are to be expected in the realisation of our ministry . Only by the power of the Holy Spirit , the PEACE of God which surpasses all understanding ,the bold unflinching wise faith like Jesus in the desert , lights up and outshines the apostatic treason of an unfriendly tempting Satan . The worst persecution which terminates in torture , bloodshed and martyrdom can also be expected in certain cases . .
The Psalmist says : Psalms 119:86 All your commandments are faithful: they persecute me wrongfully; help you me.
And Jesus : John 15:20 Remember the word that I said to you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
No one wishes to die in pain, suffering and tortured as a Martyr on the Mission field but martyrdom happened from the Early Church period and has never stopped . Tertullian said : The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” In Carthage ( modern Tunis ) , North Africa, early church theologian Tertullian argued that persecution actually strengthens the church; as martyrs bravely die for the faith, onlookers convert.
On Palm Sunday 2017 , ISIL / DAESH Islamist terrorists struck in Egypt as the persecution of Egyptian Christians continue to endure the deadly attacks perpetrated by the radicalised violent Islamists extremists . Egyptian News report :
The death toll from last Sunday’s attack in Tanta, 90 miles north of Cairo, has climbed to 29, according to Egypt’s health ministry. Seventeen others were killed in a second suicide bombing hours later outside St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria while the Coptic Pope Tawadros II was leading the prayers. With 46 fatalities, the youngest just five years old, last Sunday was the bloodiest day in decades for the country’s nine million Christians. The Egyptian branch of the so-called Islamic State said that the double attack was perpetrated by its suicide bombers.
So why would innocent Christians in Egypt , worshipping in Church on Palm Sunday be the Suicide Islamist Terrorists Target ??? Answer Lord ? ?? Lord God Almighty , why ! why ?… tears tears tears !!!
Jesus is recrucified with such atrocious fatal bomb victims .. in the old days Christians were fed to lions ! ..and so, we hear the renewed 7 words of Jesus on the Cross .. Father Forgive them for they not know what they do !!! … Strangely , Alexandria is the place where the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek , called the Septuagint , 200 yrs before the Advent of Jesus Christ . This led to the redaction of the New Testament in Greek as it was the Lingua Franca of the educated Middle East in the aftermath of Alexander the Great Conquests in 333 BCE.
It is nearly impossible to feel the despairing or persevering faith of those Christians Martyrs severely atrociously persecuted facing death ! To be in their shoes alive then martyred is unimaginable . Martyrdom stories abound in history and the World War II German Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer , anti-Nazi dissident, imprisoned and executed by Hitler’s Nazis wrote in his book, ‘The Cost of Discipleship’ :Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
Furthermore, discipleship requires repentance and obedience. At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, the message He preached was a message of repentance (Matthew4:17). The message of the apostles after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension was also one of repentance (Acts 2:38). Along with repentance comes obedience. Jesus told a crowd of listeners that salvation and obedience go hand in hand: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46). Jesus then goes on to differentiate the one who builds his house on the sand from the one who builds his house on the rock, that is, the man who not only hears the words of Jesus, but does them, too. Cheap grace seeks to hide the cost of discipleship from people. Costly grace seeks to be authentic and true to the dangerous , true and challenging witness as a disciple of Christ . How can we be at peace as we face martyrdom ? Only God knows as we fellowship intimately with our Lord and Master ! Wow !!! Alleluia !!!
The story of the expansion of Christianity begins with the persecution of Christians in the central location in Israel , Jerusalem . After the death and Resurrection of our Lord and the Outpouring of the Holy Spirit , the Fire of the Good News kept burning even more overwhelmingly . But the Jewish authorities became harsher in their condemnation and persecution of this New Jesus Christ followers sect. So the centre gradually moved to Antioch (modern Antakya , Turkey)the cradle of Christianity .Tradition holds that the first Gentile church was founded in Antioch where it is recorded that the disciples of Jesus Christ were first called Christians Acts 11:19-26.
You would have thought that such horrendous persecution of the new church would have chilled the effect it was able to have in the first century world. Beginning at Jerusalem, threats, beatings and arrests had finally given way to murder as Stephen
Acts 7 : 58 And they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
It was decided in high places to stamp out the church then and there, but it was also decided in the Highest of High Places not to allow that to happen. Believers, driven from their homes in Jerusalem, were scattered here and there throughout Palestine. They had lost their homes and property, but not their faith. So the persecuted pregnant Church was to give birth to new Christians away from the Jerusalem Terrorists who did not refrain from their barbaric , horrible and ruthless persecution . In 2011, the census shows the Christians are 14 000 out of a population of 800,000 in Jerusalem , Israel, that is 0.2 % !!! In 2000 yrs , status quo !!!
So in 2017 we are still living in the atmosphere of the early first century Christians with persecution non-stop. We have an army of Martyrs who have seeded the past ages by witnessing bravely and faithfully by God’s grace . In this age, fresh , zealous and dedicated new Apostle Paradigms of Peter , Paul , Deacon Stephen , Timothy etc etc etc … in the Living Proactive Church are involved in peaceful , caring and loving Mission and Evangelisation . Pray that the Holy Spirit anoint us afresh in His Dunamis-Power fire to launch out as we contemplate and own the words of the Great Commission ( Mat 28: 18-20 ) and the Greatest Commandment ( Mat 22: 38 ). Peace be with you all !
Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
2 Corinthians 12:10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
Lord Jesus Christ, you offer us abundant new life and power to live as sons and daughters of our Father in heaven. It is said that ‘ the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church ‘ but not all of us can have such impenetrable faith like Deacon Stephen to suffer atrocious martyrdom at the hands of evil persecutors . Holy Spirit , fall afresh and renew in me your PEACE that surpasses all understanding and may your love overflow in me as I share prayerfully the burden of those who suffer willing and unwilling martyrdom at the hands of brutal Terrorists in this sinful world. May your gift of discernment be renewed daily in me as I seek to be as wise as the snakes and harmless as doves, according to your precious Word . Amen .
+ Roger Chung Jaomalaza, Former Bishop of Madagascar