Persecution is good for you

I’ve been thinking a lot about something: so many of us complain that Catholic culture just isn’t what it used to be. We fear that we will lose privileges in society, as if we were children fearing punishment. We look at Christians in countries where their faith is illegal and fear that the West will follow suit. But Christians in those countries have a different perspective on the matter. They tell us not to feel sorry for them, because they consider the persecution a blessing. “Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets that were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12.)

I’ve been researching the issue:

roderickcyr.com/2015/04/29/what-can-persecuted-christians-teach-us/
365devotiontochrist.com/7-lessons-from-the-persecuted-church/

What do we observe of the difference between them and us?

  1. The Christians there are on fire for their faith.

Suppose someone likes to go to church because it makes him (I use a universal he because the Bible does) feel good about himself rather than out of any love for God. In the West, he simply goes every Sunday to “pay his dues.” But in Saudi Arabia or North Korea, going to church or refusing to deny Jesus could get him ostracized, arrested, or even killed. What worldly thing could motivate him to be a Christian at such a huge cost? This weeds out the lukewarm believers, leaving only the most devout.

In addition to this kind of natural selection, the suffering to which they are subjected purifies their faith even further. Hence Chinese Christians refer to prison time as “going to seminary.”

Meanwhile, we complain if our television sets malfunction, if our bosses are not as friendly as we wish, or if the coffee we order is not exactly as we would like it. In those countries, if someone complains about a headache, his faith is called into question, and he accepts the rebuke.

  1. Scarcity motivates them, abundance makes us complacent

In many countries, a copy of the Bible is contraband. A person can get arrested for simply owning one. Hence they are not easy to come by. Someone might be blessed with a single page of the Bible; he then memorizes it, and passes it on to another Christian in his community who will do the same. When Christians there go to prison, they wish they had more Scripture memorized; in fact, this is their biggest regret.

There are people who risk their lives to go into those countries and give out Bibles. Someone who is blessed with owning a whole Bible is as happy as you or I would be at winning the lottery. In China, Bibles are so scarce that pastors only give them out to those who memorize all of Psalm 119 (118 for those of us who use Douay-Rheims).

By contrast, we don’t read or study the Bible anywhere near as much as we watch television or “surf the Internet.” Those who do often don’t memorize, and those who memorize often only know a few isolated verses by heart, and these are usually limited to a few topics. I have memorized the Sermon on the Mount (among other passages of similar length), and I would rather know this than 100 separate verses.

We can access our Bibles on our phones, so it isn’t that urgent to us; after all, we think, the Bible isn’t going anywhere. If persecution arose in this country, we would regret this kind of thinking.

Similarly, they rarely have a chance to meet with other believers, so they spend hours at worship services despite the risk involved.

In addition, many of these countries are poor, which means that people have to rely more on God and have few or no possessions that can distract them. The rich man who wouldn’t give up his money and possessions to follow Jesus prompted Him to say, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” Yet most of us in the West are richer than that rich man. Our weekly food budgets will buy more than he would have put on the table when he threw a party. Our doctors can easily cure diseases that would have been a death sentence for him. He could hire musicians, but we can buy an MP3 for a buck online. If the rich man’s prosperity led him to turn away from Jesus, what is our prosperity doing to us?

  1. They have less time, so they redeem it

Similarly, the knowledge that one could be taken to prison or killed at any moment on account of one’s faith motivates them to do their good works while they can. They spend a lot of time growing their faith and are bold in evangelizing, no matter what it will cost them.

We, on the other hand, think we have all the time in the world, so we spend lots of time on entertainment now and wait until later to do what’s important. In reality, God has not promised us a “later;” anyone could die at any moment.

  1. Ironically, we suffer more in some ways.

In some ways, we suffer more in the West than persecuted Christians do in prison. That would be an audacious claim if it didn’t come from Richard Wurmbrand, who experienced both:

“Whoever has known the spiritual beauty of the Under*ground Church cannot be satisfied anymore with the emptiness of some Western churches. I suffer in the West more than I suffered in a Communist jail because now I see with my own eyes Western civilization dying.”

Their churches are growing; ours are shrinking. They have community; we don’t. Many of us have trouble finding good Catholic friends and spouses; they don’t. Their enemies wish merely to kill their bodies; ours are after our souls. Their enemies try to subdue them by inflicting pain, and largely fail; ours try to subdue us by inflicting pleasure, and are largely successful. Under Communism, Russian Christians kept their faith; under modern liberalism, they are losing their faith. So we should ask ourselves, was the end of the Soviet persecution as good a thing as we say it was?

Indeed, if persecution does not come to the West, then it will mean that God is even angrier at the sinfulness of the West than we thought; it will mean that He has disowned us, and that our so-called “civilization” will not survive for long. “For whom the Lord loveth, he chastiseth; and he scourgeth every son whom he receiveth… But if you be without chastisement, whereof all are made partakers, then are you bastards, and not sons.” (Hebrews 12:6, 8)

Personally, I’m not so sure that kind of persecution will come to the West; why should Satan bother with that, when he already has a stronghold on the majority through sexual sin?

Conclusion

We should not fear persecution; we should welcome it, maybe even pray for it. Christian culture begets a merely cultural Christianity. The writings of the saints are full of descriptions of Christians who honor God with their lips, but whose hearts are far from Him; they go so far as to say that these were the majority. How could this happen, we wonder, in the cultures that produced such great saints? It’s because there were worldly rewards for assenting to Christianity. That makes for lukewarm Christians. But in a place where following Jesus can cost you your life, that makes for a strong faith.

What can we do? We can impose scarcity on ourselves through mortification and almsgiving. Instead of reading the latest Catholic self-help book, we can memorize Scripture. Instead of buying the latest entertainment technology, we can find ways to enjoy recreation without spending money. Instead of trying to maximize pleasure and minimize suffering, we can try the opposite for a change.

It’s true that suffering and challenges may make us stronger…but…I wouldn’t wish persecution on anyone, never mind welcoming it or praying for it.
It’s wrong to persecute people.
We can find more enlightened ways to improve ourselves and those around us.

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The problem is, majority of christians in the US want to lead easy, comfortable, successful secular lives AND be a christian at the same time, given the way the US is today, it is nearly impossible to avoid cooperation with evil directly or indirectly, when someone asks if they should boycott Amazon, or other large retailer, they are usually told it would be too difficult, so just do other things instead, well duh, of course its going to be difficult living as a christian in the most hedonistic immoral nation on the planet!

IMO, it is literally impossible to be a good christian and a model secular citizen at the same time, if someone claims to be both, they are likely compromising.

I’m with Daddygirl on this, Mathematoons’ sources distort the issue, as do the new high-demand movements.

Amended post:

I’m with you both on this, bearing in mind the new HDMs and other sources can be rather glib about it.

It’s unjust of others to expect us to be untrue to ourselves but if that’s their policy we can’t necessarily stave it off.

My sources? You mean like Jesus?

Again:

“Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets that were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12.)

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