After the healing of the lame man at the gate called beautiful, the religious leaders had the apostles Peter and John arrested. Though they could find nothing to convict them of, they tried to silence them by commanding them to neither speak nor teach any more in the name of Jesus. The apostles responded as all Christians ought to respond to such persecution. They said to these very powerful men, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard (Acts 4:19-20).”
We live in an age when Christians face severer punishments for living out their Christian faith than any other time in our country. An appointee for a public office might be rejected based on their belief in the claim that salvation is found in no one else but Jesus. A cake baker might be harassed for years and have his business decimated for refusing to decorate a cake to celebrate a same sex wedding. People like these know the stakes for refusing to go along with the current cultural currents.
Persecution is nothing new to the church. Persecution was the norm for the church in its earliest years. From time to time, even in the so-called Christianized West, Christians have faced harsh persecution.
When the so called German Evangelical Church of Nazi Germany embraced a nazified version of Christianity – which was really no Christianity at all, only a Christian facade pasted over an essentially totalitarian agenda – the Confessing Church in Germany met in Wuppertal-Barmen in May of 1934 to draft an appeal to churches throughout their country. The document became known as the Theological Declaration of Barmen. Though many lost their lives in this effort and it never was able to accomplish its goal – it would take a war to stop Hitler – their message was singular. In no uncertain terms they urged the German churches to bow down to no other king except the Lord God of all Creation and His Son, Jesus Christ. They were saying essentially what Peter and John said. It is better to obey God than to obey anyone else on earth, even Hitler.
Christians are rarely called to protest for their own rights, but they are called to obey God even if it means persecution, imprisonment, or even death. The world has frequently been astounded by this simple tenacity of Christians who unwaveringly speak and teach in Jesus’ Name.