Christian martyrs, by the millions in the twentieth century up to now

If you want to get me spun up, pull this tired old chestnut out, about “how the church has ‘killed’ so many people, how the church is so ‘dangerous'”, I hear this nonsense all the time. Persecution against Christians has been going on since the very beginning. Starting with the stoning of Stephen right up to Christians being persecuted all through Africa, India, China, Southeast Asia. There were more Christian martyrs in the twentieth century then all the previous centuries, combined! No the dangerous segment of our society is the secular, responsible for World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Pol Pot, Joseph Stalin, Ho Chi Mihn, Mao Tse Tung, Hitler, Tojo, Mussolini, yea on and on, secularists, even pagans mindlessly killing millions, and usually targeting Christians.

Today we see Christian churches of all stripes whose relief agencies provide all sorts of supplies and support for those afflicted by natural and man-made disasters. Christians build and support hospitals, schools, orphanages, relief for the poor, the home- less, sex-trafficing, women dealing with unplanned pregnancies. The American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, both have their roots from support of American Christians. America provides more relief and human support than any other country in the world, all because of the Christians in America, our Christian roots and heritage. Those who are secular put their trust in government to provide relief, Christians put their trust in private agencies, which are far more effective and provide for far more people than any government agency. We see that over and over again.

Yet, the persecution, the bigotry, the hatred against Christians continues. The biggest haters, by far, are the ones who love to call everyone else haters. They’re usually the ones who run to the church when their world is collapsing and no one else will have anything to do with them.

Matthew Harrison is the president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and he talks about the mindless contemporary persecution of Christians, men and women who will run to bring relief to people in the darkest, deepest places in the world. Places where no one else will even think of going unless they are accompanied by a significant force of armed military, if it all. A long lady we met at seminary is now serving as a missionary in Kenya. This is a  young lady who just graduated from high school, she speaks numerous languages, is a musician, just an intelligent, accomplished young lady who is now holed up in a Christian compound because of a threat by Muslims in that otherwise peaceful country. I am going to quote President Harrison at length because you probably won’t see his comments anywhere else, especially in the secular media.

“The 20th century was the bloodiest in Christian history with the death of tens of millions at the hands of communist regimes. Now we are continuously shocked by Islamic radicals persecuting and killing Christians daily in the Middle East and Africa. Meanwhile, our consciences vacillate as we sense the cultural shift in the U.S. that has produced an increasing avalanche of harassment and is likely to get much worse.”

“I was in Ethiopia a few months back. In 1979, the leader of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (now approaching seven million Lutherans) was murdered by the Communist government. I chatted at lunch with the current president and general secretary of the church. The topic of persecution came up. Mind you, each of these men had themselves been repeatedly jailed in the Communist period for their confession of Christ. I cannot begin to imagine the horror of an Ethiopian prison. President Waksyoum Idosa leaned toward me across the table, raised his index finger, and said with all gravity, ‘Persecution is always good for the Church. Always.'”

“Since Luther’s hymn of martyrs is unknown (“A New Son Shall Here be Begun” written on the martyrdom of Johann Esch and Heinrich Voes) … I bid you pray for the modern martyrs soon to face death in Nigeria and elsewhere today. I bid you consider that your own ‘light momentary affliction in preparing for us an eternal wealth of glory beyond all comparisons’ (2 Corinthans 4:17). From Calvary itself, we know that God works the very greatest things through suffering and martyrdom – a ‘new song’ indeed.”

A New Song Shall Here Be Begun

1. A new song now shall be begun,

Lord, help us raise the banner

Of praise for all that God has done,

For which we give Him honor.

At Brussels in the Netherlands

God proved Himself most truthful

And poured His gifts from open hands

On two lads, martyrs youthful

Through whom He showed His power.

7. A paper given them to sign –

And carefully they read it –

Spelled out their faith in ev’ry line

As they confessed and said it.

Their greatest fault was to to be wise

And say, ‘We trust God solely,

For human wisdom is all lies,

We should distrust it wholly.’

This brought them to the burning.

12. Let men heap falsehoods all around,

Their sure defeat is spawning.

We thank our God the Word is found,

We stand in its bright dawning.

Our summer now is at the door,

The winter’s frost has ended,

Soft bud the flowers more and more,

by our dear Gard’ner tended

Until He reaps his harvest'”

[Matthew C. Harrison The Lutheran Witness June/July 2014 p 1.    A New Song Shall Here Be Begun Tr. F. Samuel Janzow, 1913 – 2001, setting by Carl Schalk, published by Concordia Publishing House 1982]

One thing persecution does do is to cull out of the church those who were in the church for the wrong reasons, those who are/were faithless. No one in the church wants persecution, but the reality is that persecution will become more overt. We are called to stand firm in the faith, the one true faith given to us by our Lord Jesus. Peter tells us in his epistle: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12) There will be trials, faithful Christians will be pressed more and more in the near future, it is not something strange or unusual it is an unbelieving world rejecting what is good and faithful. But we are also saved, whatever happens here is only temporary, it is what is eternal that matters.



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