We Christians have a long history of dissent. The Apostles chose beatings, torture and death rather than comply with the laws of Rome. Most of the New Testament was written from one prison or another.
Paul was beheaded. Peter and Andrew were crucified. Thomas was run through with spears. James was beheaded. They and the others followed Christ who Himself was crucified as a lawbreaker.
It was illegal to pick up the abandoned infants outside of Rome that were thrown away to die; Christians did it anyway and raised them as their own.
The first Christian martyred in the Coliseum is said to have been St Ignatius who was thrown to the lions and exclaimed “I am as the grain of the field and must be ground by the teeth of the lions, that I may become fit for His table.” His crime? He refused to burn incense to an idol. He was joined by enumerable others who defied the law and accepted the penalty to obey the law of Christ.
The blood baths in the Colosseum at Rome ended when a monk named Telemachus jumped into the arena to stop the gladiators from fighting and was killed by the enraged crowd. The emperor, upon hearing of his death, numbered him with the martyrs and ended the grisly blood sports. His was the last blood spilled in the Colosseum. Standing up to the crowd is a rite of passage for Christians.
It was illegal for Martin Luther to stand up and say, “My heart is held captive to the Word of God; Here I stand.” Yet his courage produced the Reformation and divided the old Roman Empire into what became modern Europe.
It was illegal for the Puritans to defy the State Church in England, they did so anyway and settled New England.
It was illegal for our Founding Father’s to declare Independence from England. What causes God fearing men to rebel against their king? Our forefathers called the British ‘Red Coats and Lobster Backs.’ The British soldiers called us ‘Brother Jonathans.’ God fearing men rebelled and took up arms. It was illegal.
Pilgrim’s Progress was written by Paul Bunyan from prison. Howard Carter came to understand the Nine Gifts of the Spirit while in jail as a conscientious objector during WWI.
Our missionaries go all over the world, many of them share Christ illegally in nations where proselytizing is a crime. Many, many of them have died for their “crimes.”
It was illegal for Rosa Parks to not give up her seat and move to the back of the bus. She refused anyway.
Segregation was the law of the land but Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood up and opposed it. His letter from the Birmingham jail is worth reading.
Brother Andrew smuggled Bibles into the Soviet Union during the Cold War. That was illegal but Brother Andrew’s story inspired a generation to do likewise. Christians smuggled Bibles into China and continue to smuggle Bibles into countries all over the world.
In fact, fifty-two nations have outlawed our Bible. We carry the gospel everywhere any way. We regard God’s laws as higher than man’s laws and risk death to carry the Gospel into all the world as a witness to all nations, for then the end shall come.
Brother Watchman Nee, a Chinese Christian, was imprisoned and accused of leading an anti-revolutionary sect in China during Mao’s cultural revolution. He died after serving 20 years in prison. Under his pillow was a note: “Christ is the Son of God who died for the redemption of sinners and resurrected after three days. This is the greatest truth in the universe. I die because of my belief in Christ. Watchman Nee.”
Christians from South Korea cross the border into North Korea and end up in internment camps. There they are starved and beaten. Most die there. Why do they do it? Christianity is illegal in the North and being a Christian is a crime. Why do they cross the border to near certain death? Because the love of Christ compels us. We cannot remain silent. We cannot relent. We cannot let anything stop us from obeying Christ. We cannot say we love God and not love those around us. If that leads us to prison and death, so be it.
Saeed Abedini, an Iranian pastor was sentenced last year to eight years in prison for “creating a network of Christian house churches and … attempting to sway Iranian youth away from Islam.” His own decision to choose Christ was illegal. Not only did he do what was illegal but encourages others to join him. Did he know the penalty? Yes. It did not stop him.
Today in Syria, Christians are being given a choice to either convert to Islam or die. They choose Christ. Their heads are removed. Their lives are spent. Their blood is shed. They sacrifice all that they have and all that they ever will be in this world rather than reject Christ. They defy power in the face of certain death. They defy hatred and ask God’s mercy on their killers. They are not cowed by threats. The world is not worthy of such men and women.
In fact, there is very little that Christians have done around the world that was worth doing that wasn’t illegal at some point.
This excerpt is from my book “A Greater Reward” that will come out on September 13th:
“There is a need to fill what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ. The blood that was spilled by Jesus was more than enough to cleanse us, purify us and pay for our sins. However, the Body of Christ must make up what is lacking to cleanse and purify the world.”
Until what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ is made complete in the sufferings of His body, those who suffer for doing the will of God will continue to suffer. The blood will continue to flow from our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world “… until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, …[is] completed.”
We have finally joined the rest of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world in being actively persecuted.
Wake up Church! Rise to the challenge! The dragon roars!
We are called to fight. We are called to resist social and cultural rot. “If the salt loses its savor, it is good for nothing except to be trampled under foot by men.”
We are called to bear witness against evil and wickedness and warn people of the judgment of God. Love compels us. We cannot hide our light under a bushel.
We are placed in a candlestick and lifted up to give light to everyone around us. We must be light. If they hate the light, it is because their deeds are evil.
This is what we have been called to: to answer the roar with a shout; to rejoice when we are mistreated; to praise God from within the prison; to proclaim the acceptable day of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God.
About the Author
Ken Van Horn has been a pastor for over 25 years–only two years of which was full-time ministry. He has worked as an electrical contractor, editor, probate judge, web developer, consultant and recently completed “A Greater Reward” based upon what the Holy Spirit revealed to him while serving as a judge concerning the work of justice and the imminent Judgment Seat of Christ.
He is currently developing a start up church in Cusseta, Georgia and does itinerant ministry when available.
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