Persecution in America?

Prison

Jailed

Michael Salman has been sent to jail for Bible studies he held at his home in Arizona. Is this persecution in America? The issue is a bit more complicated than it seems at first glance.

Technically, his arrest was due to zoning violations rather than having anything to do with what he preached. But as you’ll see in his video below, there does seem to be a bit of a double standard going on with these zoning laws. One is tempted to ask whether they would be so vigorously enforced for anything that was not a church.

In either case, my prayers go out for Michael, his family, and his local church body. From what I have seen so far, his testimony has been exemplary. He is facing this trial with boldness, and he is being quick to give God the glory.

What if We Are Persecuted?

Whether or not this actually is a case of persecution, I do believe persecution is coming. It has been the pattern of history, and it is being played out in the trends of our culture. Left and right, Christian beliefs are being labeled as “hate speech.” Those who so ardently cry for tolerance really mean tolerance for only those in agreement with them.

Americans tend to cringe at the thought of being persecuted. We have grown quite comfortable with our “inalienable right” to religious freedom. But would persecution really be a bad thing?

We are told in the Bible to expect it. Jesus said, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20, ESV). And Paul wrote that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12, ESV).

Jesus said that persecution is a blessing.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10–12, ESV)

We are told to bless, love, and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44, Romans 12:14, 1 Corinthians 4:12). And Paul, along with the other early Christians, gave us the example of contented endurance through persecutions.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:8–11, ESV)

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10, ESV)

Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. (2 Thessalonians 1:4, ESV)

Furthermore, persecution will never harm the church. Rather, it will weed out those who are not truly dedicated to following Christ, while purifying those who remain (Mark 4:17). It has been said that, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” One need only look at the thriving church in China or any other persecuted country to see a clear difference from the nominal Christianity present in so much of America.

Perhaps we need persecution? My flesh does not want it, but it may be exactly what we need to wake us up from our apathy. It’s time for the church in America to decide what is truly important to us.

What Do You Think?

Is this a case of persecution? Is persecution coming to America? Would it be a good thing? Share your thoughts in the comments below.