Research suggests that every 11 hours a Christian is killed simply for being a follower of Jesus.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to lead off with such a shocking statement, but religious persecution is all too real.
Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) adopted by the United Nations in 1948 establishes the protection of the freedom of thought, conscience and religion or belief (including the right to change one’s religion or belief). Yet in many countries these rights are ignored. It is shocking to those of us in the West that a person might be killed or persecuted simply for their faith, but it is true. Research indicates Christians are the most persecuted faith group in the world – facing persecution in over 60 countries (and discrimination in over 100).
How, then, should Christians respond to persecution?
The Bible tells us to respond with love. Love empowers us to forgive and to bless those who persecute us. That takes courage. Napoleon Bonaparte once said, ‘Courage is like love; it must have hope to nourish it.’ As believers in Jesus we hold fast to a hope that is greater than ourselves. We will soon celebrate Jesus’ resurrection – the promise of the inheritance we will gain through him. Let us celebrate by having the courage to love those who insult us and to praying fervently for those who persecute our fellow believers. Our first instinct may be to defend our rights, but if we draw near to Jesus, our first response can be love.
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