Religious persecution is alive and well today. A modern day example of this is what happened at Oxford University when student banned a Christian Union because of the possibility of “homophobia and neo-colonialism” being bore onto non-Christian students.
The Vice President of Oxford even went as far as to say that “Christianity’s influence on many marginalised communities has been damaging in its methods of conversion and rules of practice.” What’s alarmingly clear is that Christianity is either being portrayed suboptimal or the Christian community is approaching discipleship in a completely indecorous manner.
The Christian community is largely discriminated against due to a misunderstanding of what Jesus’ true gospel was while He was here on earth. In an article written by Kelly James Clark, the alarming statistics of persecution in the Middle East, upwards of “200 million Christians (10 percent of the global total) are socially disadvantaged, harassed or actively oppressed for their beliefs.”
That statistic is a humbling reminder of the simple fact that a belief in something higher than your own understanding causes dissension. However, dissension is not something that cannot be overcome with truth, love, temperance and grace. Jesus’ ministry taught us to extend the same type of unconditional love to others that He extends to you. The Apostle Paul, one of the most hateful and divisive accusers around, transformed by God’s incredible love, is one of the best examples of how religious persecution can be overcome and how the accuser can be transformed in the process.
In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he discusses the reality of being a Christian in this sinful world.
“But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long suffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them, the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” II Timothy 3:10-12
Being a Christian means that you will suffer persecution from people who don’t believe in God. You’ll even receive it from people who are believers but who misunderstand God and His true nature. But, if you understand the true nature of Christ and your created value in Him, occurrences like these won’t shock you, they’ll only fuel your love for the Father all the more.
If we can truly spend time with the Father and get to know Him, situations like these will not have the power to consumer or even shake us. It’s love that overcomes evil. It’s the transformative power of unconditional love that changes the hearts and minds of others. That, in and of itself, is the key to battling religious misunderstanding (translation: persecution) and connecting the hearts of believers back to the Father.
“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8.