““They can burn our houses, they can burn our food—but they cannot burn Jesus out of me.”
These are the words from a minister in Mozambique, whose fellow believers, family, and entire village suffered horrific violent persecution at the hands of Islamic insurgents.
An August 3rd article by Stefani McDade in Christianity Today magazine details the extent of the assaults perpetrated on those who identify as “Christian.”
Countless innocent civilians are fleeing the area where insurgents have been burning entire villages to the ground and brutalizing their inhabitants—including beheading, recruiting, capturing, enslaving, and committing sexual crimes against them. The violence has killed thousands of people and displaced upward of 800,000, a number that is growing rapidly and may soon reach one million, United Nations officials warn.
The article continues with story after story of unspeakable, sickening atrocities committed against those who would dare to wear the name of Jesus.
It’s somewhat ironic that this article appeared today since last night I taught a class on Jesus’ 8th beatitude: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:10).
We discussed Jesus’ prediction of conflict between His followers and the world. “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you” (Jn. 15:18).
Conflict with the world, false religion, and haters of God are inevitable because…
…Good and evil are polar opposites.
…The Devil hates Jesus and His followers.
…There is a constant, eternal struggle between the flesh and the spirit, between the carnal and the spiritual.
…Truth is absolute and indicts the immoral, unrighteous, and ungodly of their permissive lifestyle.
So, as a result, disciples of Christ will be persecuted. However, consider what we face in America compared to Mozambique. While there are legitimate concerns about the encroachment of government intrusion into the business of churches and the beliefs of Christians, it is so minor compared to the brutal and barbaric crimes committed against Believers in other parts of the world.
I wonder if it became illegal to become a Christian and/or to openly express faith in Jesus would we be willing to suffer for His name?
Note the passage says “persecuted for righteousness.” It doesn’t say, as D. A. Carson writes, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because they are objectionable, or because they rave like wild-eyed fanatics, or because they pursue some religio-political cause.”
Heated debates and being called names or being unfriended on social media over the pros and cons of wearing masks, injections of vaccines, contested elections, political affiliation, and perceived (or real) racial bias doesn’t exactly qualify as being “persecuted for righteousness sake.”
The persecution Jesus spoke concerning was experienced by first and second-century Christians who were commanded to deny Jesus by worshiping Caesar. If they refused they might be devoured by lions, beheaded, or burned at the stake like Polycarp, a second-century Christian. He died saying, “86 years have I have served him, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?”
Furthermore, note this is the only beatitude that Jesus offers additional commentary with this encouraging blessing and promise.
“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
In the CT article, one Believer whose name is withheld offered this faith-filled testimony, “It is a tremendous privilege to be partnering in Mozambique for such a time as this. The body of Christ in northern Mozambique is not discouraged. No matter how dark things get, we’re called to shine in the midst of it.”
“Love wins, and it always triumphs over hate,” said another unnamed spiritual leader. “And everybody—absolutely everybody—is saying yes to Jesus.”
Will you and I say “yes” to Jesus? To His Word? To His Will for our lives? And to walk the walk and not just talk the talk?
Is our faith strong enough to say, “They cannot burn Jesus out of me”?
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman