ON THE EVENING of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19 ESV).
According to Open Doors USA, persecution against Christianity world wide is intensifying, with Christian women being the most vulnerable.
They state that every month, on average, 345 Christians are killed, 105 churches are burned or attacked, and 219 Christians are detained without trial.
This trend, which is confirmed by many academic journals and publications, illustrates the widespread and horrific persecution Christians experience and that we all witnessed in Sri Lanka on Easter.
In this world where 1 in 9 Christians face high levels of persecution, where 11 Christians are murdered every day because of their faith (retrieved from: www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution), we are confronted with the unimaginable reality that many believe is an issue that is often ignored or discredited.
The reality is that there is an intense ongoing world-wide discrimination against Christians due to their faith.
The Newsweek cover article by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, on Feb. 13, 2012, addressed this alarming growing genocide by calling it “Christophobia,” a violent mindset that far surpasses Islamophobia.
With all of this it is vitally important that we as Christians remember the words of Paul, a servant of the church who was falsely accused, imprisoned and regularly beaten because of his faith (Acts 21, 2 Corinthians 11); “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
It is easy to become enraged and look for a group of people and plead for their end as if this war would end with their death.
What Christians are experiencing now is what we have always been experiencing.
Satan our enemy raging and celebrating as evil truly infiltrates the hearts and minds of this present age.
Realizing this, the text above continues in Ephesians chapter 6 by instructing Christians to cloth themselves with the Armor of God.
This armor includes the Belt of Truth, the Breast Plate of Righteousness and shoes fitted with the Gospel, and in all circumstances taking up the shield of faith, wearing the Helmet of Salvation and wielding the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.
Without going into depth about the pieces of the Armor of God, one must recognize that every piece, whether it be our belt, shoes, helmet, shield or sword, it all finds its power in the resurrection of Christ.
It is no surprise that evil reared its head in Sri Lanka on Easter morning, as it still writhes in defeat because of what it could not accomplish on Good Friday and that first Easter morning, where Christ stripped Satan, sin and death itself of its power as he triumphed over the grave.
His resurrection, and being united to it, is what gives you and me the ability to stand facing the horrors of this world in confidence, saying, “You may take my home, spouse, children, position, even my breath, but you will not separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:37-39).
That love has been demonstrated. That love is the same yesterday, today and will be tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8).
What a victory! What a victory for Christ to move to the Disciples who were hiding behind locked doors for fear of persecution and death. What a victory that our Lord stood in front of them with his pierced hands outstretched, wounded side exposed, speaking the words, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19).
What a victory to supply such a peace, a peace that transcends understanding, that guards our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7), that is not as the world gives (John 14:27) but only supplied through Jesus’ reigning through his death and resurrection.
What a victory won by our God.
A victory that has carried every generation for the past 2,000 years right up to this present day as we think of the horrors of “Christophobia,” and the raging of Satan.
A victory now enjoyed even by those who gathered for worship in Sri Lanka, bowed their heads in prayer and opened their eyes seeing their savior face to face (Job 19).
What a powerful reminder that the Gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church (Matthew 16:18).
This is why we can stand in solidarity and say that no matter what the next few years hold; we have the certain promise of eternal life lived out rejoicing in the presence of our Lord.
Our future is secure and no matter the tactic the enemy takes we will not be overrun, or silenced, and we will not taste eternal death.
Therefore, take Christ’s words to heart, “peace be with you,” and to our resurrected Lord and Savior be the glory.
Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Patrick Lovejoy is minister of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Port Angeles. He can be contacted at 360-457-4122 or [email protected]