It had to start somewhere. Didn’t it? It starts small and then comes to a head at some unknown time in the future. That’s the way of all things. Small beginnings. Everything starts small. It continues to escalate. Sometimes for no good reason at all. And if all forces come together at the right time, momentum takes over and BOOM! We have a movement.
Cancel culture. Gaslighting. Persecution. Totalitarianism.
We see it in the news every day. And if we don’t watch the news, we read it online. Social media posts. Twitter. TikTok. Facebook. Instagram. And all those other platforms that are too many to name. People throwing shade at someone else. For many different reasons. The color of their hair is wrong. They’re the wrong size. They’re not loud enough. Or quiet enough. They said the wrong words. Or they didn’t say anything at all.
Others are being physically attacked. And being injured or killed. We see new examples almost daily of people being beaten and robbed on subways in large cities. Those standing around are too busy capturing the incident on their phones to risk their own lives by helping the innocent victim. Oh. They don’t want to get involved. Yet here they are. Recording the worst moment’s of someone’s life under attack by bullies. And no one calls for help except the one in need.
A young woman in Iran was jailed and then beaten. She later died. The reason? Too much of her hair was showing under her hijab. We can say. Oh. That’s just how her government does things. But basic human rights are another thing. Now thousands in her country are protesting. Risking their own lives to gain back some dignity and liberty. A young man in this country was arrested for defending himself. He ended someone else’s life in the fight for his own. Even though he was jailed, he eventually won his case in the court of law. But his name. And his fight will not be soon forgotten.
Sometimes it only takes one incident to get a crowd going. People have just had it with all the violence. And all the false narratives being thrown around. Many are fed up and they want meanies to stop being mean. All voices matter.
Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen. A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria. (Some devout men came and buried Stephen with great mourning.) But Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison.
Mistreatment of others isn’t anything new. We’ve seen it all the way back to Adam and Eve. One of their sons killed the other out of jealousy. And persecution has continued on from that day forward. Even after Jesus had returned to heaven, his followers were being tortured, imprisoned and killed for believing his message of truth. But all the threats and persecution didn’t stop them from telling his message. They continued sharing with others the gospel of Jesus Christ. And it got them into hot water. Still they didn’t let up. They knew they had a message to share. And they couldn’t keep quiet. Regardless of the cost.
A great wave of persecution began the day Stephen was martyred. Perhaps all it took to really crack down on followers of the Way was to kill one of their own. Perhaps they saw how easily they got away with it. So they continued with this wave of terror. Many knew it was wrong, but they stayed silent.
The killing of Stephen didn’t stop the believers from spreading the good news. They continued on with their mission. Even when they were under threat of imprisonment and death. The message of Jesus Christ could not be stopped. And it’s still moving forward today. There are millions of followers of Jesus around the globe. Many are being persecuted today. And their faith stands strong. Even in the face of uncertainty and possible imprisonment or death, they live their lives in obedience to biblical teaching.
Christians in China today are once again being told to stop meeting together. Even those in small home groups are told to shut it down. Students are advised to stop all church activities if they want to smoothly graduate. Their government strongly opposes Christians meeting together. But the believers continue meeting. Privately. Quietly. In the midst of threats and persecution, they continue to find ways to strengthen their faith by sharing with fellow believers. We must pray that they stand strong in their time of oppression.
Oh. They may not be able to shout out their message from the rooftops. But they can live their lives in such a way that they never go against the Word of God. It is possible. You know? Even in the midst of the deepest, darkest trials of life, our light can shine forth in this dark world.
It’s easy to have a comfortable faith when we aren’t challenged to defend it. But the stage is being set for harder times. We must prepare now for difficulties ahead. We don’t know if or when we’ll be commanded to stop attending church. Or sharing our faith. We don’t know when our livelihood or safety may be threatened because we stand for Jesus Christ. Let’s stand strong in our faith. Let’s defend the truth. At all costs.