Thursday, 22 November 2012

Ultimate Freedom

Compelled to Attack Christians

The Scriptures make very clear that Christians will suffer for their faith.  Suffering is the new normal.  Whilst it is true that persecution is neither constant nor ubiquitous, it can be expected at any time.  Jesus warned the apostles they would face severe persecution in Israel (in Matthew 10) but we have no doubt that what He warns of in their generation applies pretty constantly throughout history. 

We are told that every year thousands upon thousands of Christians are martyred around the world.  What gives His people courage and resolution in the face of such suffering?  There are doubtless many truths, many comforts from Scripture that encourage the martyr.  One of the most trenchant is found in the Matthew 10 discourse to the apostles on the suffering they were about to experience: "do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."  (Matthew 10: 28)

It is this truth--that God is able to destroy both body and soul in hell, whilst man can only kill the body--that enables Christians to withstand the ultimate threat from tyrants.
  It is also one reason why tyrants and oppressive political regimes hate Christians so much: they are free people, despite all the oppression that may be heaped upon them. 
Edmund Burke similarly once said that one who truly feared God (admittedly quite a difficult thing to do) feared nothing and nobody else.  At least you can get to heaven from a North Korean labor camp or torture chamber.  You may also be able to arrive in hell from a North Korean palace.  And if you believe that, then the Great Leader has no power to control you.  According to the believer, God's commandments and requirements exist outside time and cannot be amended even by Kin Il Sung.  If we love the thing that God commands and desire the things he promises, then we too can live outside time and beyond the reach of Stalin, Kim, Mao, Pol Pot, Hitler or the rest--as their dungeons prove. [Peter Hitchens, The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), p. 211.]
Samuel Rutherford, the great Puritan theologian and preacher, author of Lex Rex (The Law is King) and staunch opponent of the doctrine of the divine right of kings reportedly said on his deathbed, upon hearing that he was summoned to appear before Charles II, "Tell the king I am going where few kings and great men go."  Precisely. 

The same sentiment is found in Luther's great hymn, A Mighty Fortress is our God:

And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God has willed
His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! his doom is sure,
One little Word shall fell him.

That Word above all earthly powers--
No thanks to them--abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill,
God's truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Christians are a free people because God is so great and infinitely above all earthly powers. 

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