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Standing By Those Who Are Persecuted

by Bob Russell

Bob Russell1Gleaned from www.bobrussell.org on February 8, 2015

Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran was fired a month ago. The Mayor dismissed him because Cochran had self-published a book on Biblical morality for men and shared it with some people at his job. City officials received complaints about some passages in the book that denounced homosexuality as sinful.

Evangelical Christians are experiencing increased opposition these days in what is becoming an anti-Christian era. Those who publicly stand for God’s truth may jeopardize their careers, find themselves lampooned in the press or be subject to ridicule by comedians. It’s certainly not popular to take a Biblical position in this post-modern culture.

The writer of the Hebrew letter commended those who courageously stood for Christ in the face of persecution. Some of his contemporaries in the First-Century had been exposed to much more than just insult and loss of job. A few had their property confiscated. A good number had been imprisoned and some executed. But they faithfully endured because they knew they were pleasing God and had, “…better and lasting possessions” (Heb. 10:34).

But there is a phrase in Hebrews 10:33 that should convict those of us who don’t experience many attacks from the adversary. It reads, “At other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated.” The writer commends the followers of Christ who were courageous enough to stand with those who were persecuted and, “sympathized with those in prison.”

When Christians, who are in the public limelight, are ridiculed for their faith, it’s important that fellow believers boldly stand with them. When football player Tim Tebow takes a stand for morality, when Hobby Lobby owner David Green takes a stand for life, when Chick-fil-A owner Dan Cathy stands for marriage, when evangelist Franklin Graham speaks the truth in regard to Islam, Christians all over the country should be speaking out in support of them, standing with them, reinforcing their position.

Sadly, that’s usually not the case. Many Christians today remain pitifully quiet about their position on these cutting edge issues. They’re like the little boy who loved his mongrel dog. Someone giggled and asked, “What kind of a dog is that?” “He’s a Police Dog,” the lad responded. “A police dog?” the man snickered, “He sure doesn’t look like a police dog!” “He’s in the secret service,” the boy quipped. A lot of Christians disappear when it comes to taking a firm stand for truth. They blend in safely with the crowd and attempt to serve in secrecy.

We excuse our cowardice with the rationalization that we don’t want to alienate the seekers we’re trying to win to Christ. We don’t want to upset people or get into an argument. But the bottom line is we seek the praise of men more than the praise of God. We’re terrified of disapproval or ridicule. But that’s not new. When Jesus was arrested, all His disciples forsook Him and fled. The Apostle Paul once bemoaned the fact that, “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me” (2 Tim 4:16). It’s risky to stand with those who are rejected by men. Guilt by association can hurt your credibility.

The Hebrew writer shares this warning from God: “If he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him” (10:38). Those of us who are not being persecuted for our faith need to be standing unashamedly with those who are. That means Christian leaders need to speak up and make their positions known…repeatedly. It may not enhance our public image, but Christ will be honored, truth will be reinforced and we will be obeying Hebrews 10:25 which commands, “let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

A few days ago hundreds of Chief Cochran’s supporters came to his defense. They gathered at Atlanta’s city offices to protest his termination and offer prayers for the nation and its leaders. “We’re here to say ‘no’ to discrimination of Christians in the workplace. We’re here to say ‘no’ to bigotry against Christians in positions of leadership,” Bishop Garland Hunt said at the Standing for Our Faith Rally. “But we’re here to say ‘yes’ to our call to preach the Gospel to every nation, everywhere, every city — and that includes Atlanta, Georgia,” Mr. Hunt said.

Chief Cochran, who is a deacon in his church and a devout Christian, has filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission on religious freedom grounds. He expressed what should be the spirit of Christians in the battle for religious freedom. “The LGBT members of our community have a right to be able to express their views and convictions about sexuality and deserve to be respected for their position without hate or discrimination,” Cochran stated. “But Christians also have a right to express our belief regarding our faith and be respected for our position without hate and without discrimination. In the United States, no one should be vilified, hated or discriminated against for expressing their beliefs.”

I’m encouraged by the fact that more and more Christians are beginning to stand up for religious freedom. For too long we’ve huddled silently in the shadows and just mumbled about being bullied by those with a political agenda. The Bible urges us, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so” (Psalm 107:2).

 

Bob Russell is retired Sr. Minister of the Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, KY.




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I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33