“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” — Acts 1:8
“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” — Acts 8:1
I hear more than a small amount these days from those who refer to American Christians as being persecuted. Most of these references are based on perceived discrimination of Christians who act upon their belief that America is a Christian nation. Such acts have to do with erecting public displays of Christian scripture, such as the 10 Commandments on government owned property, or with refusing to serve gays in privately owned bakeries or in government owned courthouses. Yet, in the same vein, I hear many prayer concerns raised in relation to international Christians being discriminated against, most notably by Muslims or communists, but never by the Jews of Israel despite the pleas of many native Christians in Palestine.
For the record, where any discrimination and persecution is concerned, I’m against it. Persecution of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sheiks, Baha’is, atheists, etc. It’s all wrong in my book. It’s an entire elephant in my opinion. And I’m in favor of talking about it. The whole pachyderm.
If we were to seriously address the topic of discrimination and persecution, we would find out that most of it occurs not between governments and their citizens, or even between one religion and another. That’s just a small part of the elephant. The rest is made up of religious tribes or denominations persecuting each other. As in many situations, we think of “stranger danger” in ways that mask the far greater danger nearby. Where people of faith are concerned, the most common abuse occurs at the hands of those within our own faith. Most violence is domestic violence. Most terrorism is domestic terrorism. Like Muslims abroad, we Christians in America are by far our own worst enemy these days. Now enters the elephant.
You see, when we read in Acts 8:1 of persecution leading to flight for asylum throughout Judea and Samaria in fulfillment of Acts 1:8, we’re still dealing with Jews persecuting each other even to death. Back in Acts 7, we read of Stephen’s death by stoning. Or backing up to lets say Matthew 10, what Jesus is referring to in way of persecution involves domestic violence, not foreign. He references future Jewish arrests of his Jewish disciples, trials and floggings in the synagogue. And how the Holy Spirit will intervene upon those occasions.
Before Paul was ever abused by Roman authorities, he was first an abuser of the sect of Jews who were followers of Jesus, and then a victim of that same abuse by other Jews. Through most of the book of Acts, the Roman government plays little part except to settle disputes among Christians and Jews with a pox on both their houses. Arguably, Paul was running from his fellow Jews when he landed in the courts of his fellow Romans.
So why to this day are we still our own worst enemies? Why is our deepest discrimination and persecution against one another whether as Americans in general or Christians in particular? And how dare we presume to show the Arabs how to resolve their own disputes when we have a liberal vs. conservative cold war of our own barely contained here at home? That’s an elephant in the room I would like for us to talk about inside our church sanctuaries and small groups. And here on this blog site.
What are your own thoughts?