We live in abnormal times. We live in the world of sickness and death, yet we enjoy amazingly good health and prolonged life. We live in the world of persecution and hostility to the people of God, yet we enjoy an amazingly peaceful and tolerant society.
These abnormal times are so nice that they seduce us into thinking that health and peace are normal for the people of God in this world. And we are angry even petulant when God seems to rob us of our rights to such pleasures.
But the consistent expectation and promise of Scripture is hardship suffering and difficulty for those who are to deny themselves take up the cross and follow Jesus their Lord.
Four years ago Word Books published a book by Paul Marshall entitled “Their Blood Cries Out”. It was a wake up call to Western (especially American) Christians about the normal life of suffering that Christians in more than sixty countries are facing every day.
Since then a slightly different wake up call has come to whole nations: both America on September 11th and Australian in the Bali bombing. Our nations, which enjoy the privilege of peaceful society, have discovered that there is no peace in our times.
But Christians living outside of the nations that enjoy the Christian heritage have known all along that there is no peace in our times.
Paul Marshall’s book did not whitewash Christianity or demonise any other group.
He takes the reader for a tour of a wide diversity of Islamic relationships with their Christian citizens. But he did expose the horrors of the war in the Sudan, and the discrimination against Christians that is experienced daily in other less violent Islamic countries.
He then recounts the continuing persecution in the remaining Communist countries like China, Vietnam, Cuba and North Korea – as well as recounting the difficulties of Christians in the Buddhist and Hindu Asian sub-continent.
He does not ignore the persecution of Christians in nominally Christian countries where majority denominations get too close to Government and discriminate against minority expressions of Christianity.
All this may look like the secularists are correct in their claim that religion causes wars. But the great genocides of the twentieth century came from the minds of people like Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot and Stalin who were thoroughly imbued with secularist and atheistic thinking. So Paul Marshall devotes space to the failure of western secularist.
This is not a happy book to read. It is not a pleasant topic to write or speak about. But there is a naÔve and unhelpful ignorance in Western society about the suffering of people who name Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Yet their suffering is what the New Testament predicted and expected while our peace and prosperity is unnatural.
One wonders sometimes when we read that “all who desire to live and Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” – whether it is our failure to live such a life that has lead to our acceptability in our society. Could it be that the evil one does not need to persecute us for he has so effectively seduced us.