Recently, Four Missionaries of Charity, founded by Mother Teresa, were murdered in Yemen. Like many, the news broke my heart. However, as the day progressed and I read other stories in the news and on social media, I became increasingly dismayed. Many Christians from the United States on the internet were not asking for prayer for persecuted Christians or calling for actions to be taken to help protect them. Instead, they were discussing how Christianity in our country is “under attack.” I was and still am repulsed. How can we as American Christians cry “persecution!” and subsequently, equate our “plight” in this country with that of these precious martyred nuns who gave everything for their Bridegroom? Even if someone is unaware of the situation in the Middle East, when the word “persecution” is used in the context of North American Christianity it lessens the reality of the more serious, life or death persecution that Middle Eastern Christians are experiencing. Not only are we not persecuted to the same degree as these brave souls, we enable injustice in our own country. We are so blinded by our own wants we cannot see the real, desperate needs of others around the world and even in our backyard. These Middle Eastern Christians are the ones living and dying like our Savior, for our Savior. Not us.
Not us as we cry “persecution,” when racism is alive and well in our churches and culture.
Not us as we refuse to help poor, innocent refugees because of unholy fear.
Not us as we fight for the unborn yet fail to adopt children and support women in need.
If we buy into the idea that we are under attack in this country in a special, particular kind of way, we buy into a dangerous way of thinking for Christians. Being outraged about our comparably petty circumstances is comfortable because it requires little action and effort. Thinking of our own wants is not our purpose. However noble it may seem to focus on preserving Christianity in the United States, serving others is our actual call. In doing so, we serve our King and preserve the essence of what it is to be a follower of Christ. This would do far more for the Gospel than a thousand angry rallies of people desiring to “Make America Great Again.”
If we shift our focus from ourselves to others, I think we would be surprised to find that others would view our religion and, therefore, our principles in a more favorable light. This kind of humility takes the self-control and love demonstrated by our Savior as he was led to his death. If persecution is on the horizon in the United States for Christians, it will not be beneficial to the church if we confront it with a general attitude of victimization and anger. Historically, real persecution only caused the church to expand, and expand rapidly. The humility and love of the martyrs in the early church was unlike anything the world had ever seen. The world needs to see humble Christians devoted to God and neighbor, always joyful, never complaining, and never ceasing to seek justice.
So, even if you do feel persecuted, I pray for you to have the ability to turn the other cheek. It is not a passive reaction, but a means of salvation. It saved the world once, and I have a strong feeling it has the power to do so again.