ISIS stands for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Although most people know it only as ISIS, most people have heard the term ‘ISIS’ thanks to the news coverage. However, if you are a Christian, chances are you won’t like what you hear. In an interview with CNN’s Jonathan Mann, Mark Arabo, a Californian businessman and Chaldean-American leader called what’s happening in Iraq a “Christian genocide” and said “children are being beheaded, mothers are being raped and killed, and fathers are being hung.” In another news, you heard Christians fleeing Iraq’s cities as ISIS captured and claimed control of cities such as Qaraqosh, a town eferred to as Iraq’s Christian capital.
Just last night, I watched a YouTube clip of an Indian pastor being persecuted. A mob of young men with masks knocked on a door with the Pastor’s name written on a plaque above the door. Upon entering the house, the men cornered the pastor. They swung bats and destroyed his furniture as he watched helplessly. Finally they swung the bats at him. The pastor was dragged out of the house. They kicked his head, slammed his body, battered his knee mercilessly, while the mass just watched, shouted, and some even took pictures. I really cannot believe my eyes. Such violence. Such hatred toward fellow human being. No pity. No mercy.
That pastor is not alone. You just need to type in Google ‘Christian’ and/or ‘Persecution’ and you will see so many other Christians or Christian leaders persecuted because of their faith. If you think objectively, you really cannot fathom why would a group of people have such hatred toward people who follow Jesus Christ. Yes, we might be weird. We believe in someone who died on the cross and rose again from the dead. But why persecution? Why the killing? Why the hatred?
Jesus in John chapter 15 said this:
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’
That last phrase is just spot on. ‘They hated me without a cause.’
I don’t think I have to explain what Jesus said. Jesus warned the disciples, in so doing He warned all Christians, that being Jesus’ followers will mean hatred by the world. There is no explaining away. The Christians in countries like Iraq are experiencing the reality of this prophecy/promise/warning. We must pray for them. We must seek ways to encourage them. One thing, however, we are unable to do. We are not able to make the world love them. In a way, the hatred of the world confirms for them that they are not of this world. It confirms for them that they are indeed the servant of their master, the Lord Jesus Christ. It came in huge price tag, the cost of their lives. However, it should be a massive encouragement for them, just like the apostles in the book of Acts considered it a privilege to suffer for Jesus’ Name.
Now, I am a Christian who lives in a very very safe country. If you are like me, it is easy for us to look, to think, and to analyse what is happening out there. It would be much more sobering if we try to consider the implications to us. In verse 19, Jesus said, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” If my logic serves me right, the implication is clear. If the world loves us as its own, if the world does not hate us, then we are of the world. That, my friend, is very very sobering.
Yes, of course we cannot begin judging people: If you are not persecuted by the world, then you are not a Christian. I don’t think we can judge others that way. My logic might lack nuance, theologians might say. However, I am inviting all of us, all convenient Christians, to not try to explain away what Jesus. I am inviting all of us to really examine our lives and to wrestle with what Jesus said.
I am not asking us to hate the world so that the world will hate us. I am not asking us to go out there and openly invite your neighbours to persecute you. I am, however, inviting us to really ask ourselves: Are we avoiding persecutions? Are you avoiding tension with the world by watering down your witness? Am I subconsciously or consciously embracing this world so that the world will favour me back? When it comes to this world, do I say, “I’m lovin it”? Because if we do, perhaps we are of this world. If we are of the world, then we are not of Christ. The implication, my friends, is huge.