Christians in the United States and around the world are experiencing intensified challenges to the free exercise of our Christian faith. Communities of believers from Kentucky to Minnesota and Virginia to California have faced open and unapologetic hostility from state and local government leaders for the past year and a half.
Radical anti-Christian, anti-family ideology is crammed down children’s throats in elementary school. Christians are targeted in court for refusing to celebrate transgender disfigurement, and Catholic churches over the summer sustained vandalism and arson.
Meanwhile, we’ve watched in anger and disgust at the consequences of the Biden administration’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, where up to 12,000 Afghan Christians are now hiding from an army of Taliban warriors. There, women and children are living a hellish deja vu.
In July, the Taliban reportedly ordered imams and mullahs in captured areas to “provide a list of girls over 15 and widows under 45” to become forced wives for their Taliban fighters. Weeks before that, a bombing at a girls’ school in Kabul killed 85 children.
Around the globe, we are witnessing persecution we should have seen coming. As Jesus warned his early followers, Christians should expect to be hated by the world. Even when that persecution doesn’t begin with imprisonment, torture, and death, it can start subtly, such as with government telling believers when, where, and how they can worship.
We’ve witnessed in recent months an escalation of political harassment, confusing and irrational government action, and threats of violence. Christians have been mocked, ridiculed, lied about, and harassed. Yet, just as he promised, God has repeatedly opened doors for his disciples that no man can close — no mayor or city council, no governor or state legislature, no president or Congress of the United States.
When the state of California and the city of Los Angeles tried to shut down Grace Community Church last year, they failed. Just a month ago, the church won a major legal battle and a settlement from the civic authorities. In the District of Columbia, Capitol Hill Baptist Church won a settlement in a lawsuit to preserve their constitutional right to gather and worship.
Parents are stepping up to fight school-sanctioned attacks on their children’s beliefs. Brave artisans like Jack Phillips are refusing to be cowed by repeated threats and attacks. And many believers are holding on tighter than ever to the tenets of traditional Christianity to forge a path forward.
Believers are resisting new regimes of anti-Christian ordinances how and where they can. And in places like Afghanistan where they have been forced to flee or hide, Christians are already hoping and preparing to resume their ministries.
Why? Because persecution has never been a call for the church to retreat. Instead, persecution is a call to remain faithful and shine the light of the truth in the darkest parts of the earth. That’s why people of faith, in every profession and walk of life, are giving themselves to the cause of life, truth, and peace around the world.
Why are they willing to put everything on the line? It is because the only hope for suffering people is the witness of the church — the people who believe truth is still worth dying for.
Over the past 18 months, I’ve had many occasions to explain why I’ve chosen to defy civil authorities and lead hundreds of thousands of believers in public worship amid lockdowns. We’ve held “worship protests” around the country, pushing back against government restrictions on Christian fellowship.
There have been those who’ve told us we are being “un-Christian” by insisting on our right to worship God in public. Some have even suggested we are endangering lives, or that we are somehow morally culpable for COVID infection rates.
But we have a choice every day. We can either live by faith, or die by fear.
That choice becomes very easy when I put my life in the broader context of the global Christian church. How can I surrender my faith here when they refuse to surrender it there? When our brothers and sisters around the world are facing a martyr’s death just for walking out of their homes, how can we just sit at home and watch it happen on TV?
We cannot remain silent. That option is not viable for God’s people because we know that a living faith requires moving feet. It requires action, determination, and resolve.
We do not wait for the permission of earthly rulers before we obey our Heavenly King. By our steadfast love for Christ and his church, we say to our brothers and sisters around the globe, in Afghanistan and everywhere else: we are one in solidarity with you.
In that unity of purpose and calling, we fulfill the final prayers of our Lord, when he prayed that his disciples — that we here and now and everywhere on the earth — might be one. And in that oneness, we truly find what it means to be “blessed” amid the harshest persecution, just as Jesus promised.