Friday, September 10, 2010

Persecution Complex

Tomorrow is the kind of anniversary no one wants to remember, but which we simply cannot avoid.  A tragic event happened nine years ago that shook the world (to say nothing of our own nation) and changed it forever.  Although the causes of that event are far more complex than I could even begin to give proper attention to, it's almost undeniable that religious persecution was in play.

There are those among us in Christianity who often point out that Christians have a history of being persecuted, and it's not hard to find examples of such persecution being true: both in history and in the modern day.  To note that most of us who are Christians in America have had a position of privilege unknown in many other parts of the world does not eliminate the truth that some such persecution exists even here.

Some Christians respond to this persecution by aggressively fighting back.  Although they probably wouldn't understand it themselves, they have often even responded with religious persecution toward others.  Although the Bible does teach that God is a jealous God who does not abide worship of other deities, I remain convinced that a response of persecution is not the response God wants us to have.  Instead, we are called to hospitality.  Consider, for example, this quote from Leviticus 19:34:
The foreigners residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.
Note that there's no requirement that the "foreigners" be believers in God (i.e., proselytes) to be treated as equals.  Far from treating those foreigners as enemies, God calls God's people to remember that they were foreigners themselves.  And, indeed, the Israelites' time in Egypt was one of great persecution.  One would hope that, remembering what that persecution was like, God's people would respond by refusing to become persecutors themselves.  Sadly, this all too often proves not to be the case.

It might also be helpful to recognize that Christians do not hold a monopoly on having been persecuted.  Indeed, religious persecution has existed for as long as religion itself.  It is merely a sad reflection of our sinful nature.  While we should, by all means, defend our right to follow God, let's not add to the problem by persecuting others.

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