Christians are public enemy number one almost world wide. Jesus promised, "the world will hate you." That hatred is most obvious in the Islamic and atheistic communist cultures.
It is more subtle in the "Christian" world where laws are being promoted against proselytizing and "hate literature" and Christians are ridiculed if they try to carry out the great commission.
Although shocking to American Christians, recent reports tell us that today, world wide, it is more likely that you as a Christian would be beaten, tortured or raped for your faith than be free to attend service in a secure, air conditioned church. The western experience of freedom from fear is unknown by the majority of the world's believers scattered over the other two-thirds of the world.
It is estimated that as many as 160,000 a year die for their testimony with more martyrs in the 20th century than in the previous nineteen. Occasionally a high profile case gets the media's attention but most die in closed countries, often buried in graves known only to our Master. Foreign missionaries also lose their lives with 150 murdered in 1995 alone.
Today, religion-based governments in two-thirds of the world allow no tolerance for anyone labeled "Christian." These include Atheistic Communism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and other Eastern beliefs. Christians living under any of these are either severely unwelcome or shot on sight.
Millions have died in Islam's bloody campaign to control continental Africa. In Sudan alone 1.3 million have been killed, some by crucifixion. Tribal warfare in other African nations have caught Christians in the crossfire.
The fall of the Iron Curtain brought a breath of freedom to some Communist areas. But believers in China, North Korea and Cuba are still pursued and jailed, tortured or murdered. China is embracing western economic methods, but torture and jail awaits anyone promoting western religious or political ideas.
Ironically, sometimes those who "name the Name of Christ" are also responsible. In countries where Eastern Orthodoxy reigns, true Bible believers are increasingly unwelcome.
For several hundred years, Roman Catholic "Christians" in Latin America have systematically eliminated those with the true gospel. Soul winners in so called "Christian" Europe and Ireland, are generally unwelcome or are met with violence. During the infamous "inquisition" millions of real Christians were tortured or murdered in the name of Christ by false "Christians." But even where persecution is intense, God is faithful. In their book, Never Alone, Drs. Pearl and Timothy Yeh describe in detail how the comfort of the Holy Spirit never left them during years of separation, solitary confinement, and loss of home and family in the Red Guard era of China. Through the beatings and other torture, their faith never wavered knowing that death would only be a promotion into the Lord's presence.
Periods of freedom such as we enjoy have been short throughout history. We do not know when a global crisis could suddenly be used to rip away that protection and we would also face the same torture and death.
But, someone has said, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church." In many countries persecution has only fueled a thriving underground revival. No one knows how many believers are in the house churches in China today but estimates run as high as 90 million.
In other countries where missionaries have been driven out for a time, they returned to find thriving native churches. God's word will not return void. Let's work while it is yet day.