There is a great deal of
discussion going on at present about the persecution and suffering that
is going on in places like India and parts of northern Africa. Much of
this stems from, on the surface at least, to the aspect of religious
fanaticism, stemming from the fact that these attacks appear to be
coming from two groups of people who are firmly rooted in religious
While there is a definite element of truth in this,
we certainly cannot totally rule it out on the argument that appears to
be prevalent in explaining this. That is, that it is all about the fact
that these religions are steeped in the aspect of self-sacrifice being
the way that they can reach their heaven.
Now we cannot rule
that aspect out totally, because the shedding of blood as the method
for the forgiveness of sin has its origins as far back as the origin of
mankind. In Genesis we read of this account:
in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of
the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn
of his flock and their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his
offering but He did not respect Cain and his offering
Genesis 4:3-5 (New King James)
let us not lose sight of the fact that attitude most possibly had a lot
to do with the acceptance and rejection of these offerings. However, it
does introduce to us the first account of “blood sacrifice” to get
oneself right with God.
It is this latter aspect that it is
found as a fundamental belief in just about every (if not every) tribe
of people in the world; that blood is required for cleansing of our
wrongdoings and as a way to please God (or the gods, depending on the
viewpoint). This sacrifice ranges from that of birds and small animals
all the way through to human sacrifice.
From this, then, we can
see that the idea of sacrificing other humans (as well as
self-sacrifice or martyrdom) is not really that strange. Sure, the idea
of human sacrifice is an abhorrence to many people but, it is still a
part of the overall aspect of human culture.
surprising then that fanatical religions and satanic cults are going to
practice this aspect at some level or another.
the aspect of the sacrifice of blood as a cleansing before God is
certainly re-enforced throughout the Old Testament, as the sacrifice of
lambs, goats and bulls was a foundation of the Mosaic Law. Very strict
guidelines and enforcement of this is one of the strong underlying
themes found throughout the Old Testament.
However, what does
the Bible actually say about this. It tells us, quite clearly, that
whilst it was a requirement of the Law, God preferred a repentant heart
over any sacrifice.
But, the Law is the Law and so sacrifice
is required. Hence the reason that Christ came into this world as a
human being. He became the perfect sacrifice, ending all other
sacrifices. Added to that, it was a “once only” event (otherwise Christ
would have to keep dying in order to set us free).
Christian faith is also built on a “blood sacrifice”, only in this case
it is done and finished and no more is required, as such.
What has this to do with trials in our life, I hear you ask?
a lot, in my opinion. Throughout the New Testament, there are
references to living a “Christ-like” life if we profess to be
Christians. There is a poster I have seen around a lot lately that
says: “You are the only Bible that many people will ever read.” That is
rather a scary thought, in a way, because it means that our life needs
to be Christ-like 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s not just a Sunday
(or Saturday, depending on your Sabbath day) role but an everyday role,
because people will constantly be watching you to see how you fail. I
say how you fail because, by our very human nature, we are bound to
fail from time to time, no matter how strong our faith is. Those
failings are what our critics see, in preference to all the “right”
things that we do.
Now, if we are going to be Christ-like then,
we must be prepared to experience some of the things that Christ
experienced in His time on earth. If you read through the Gospels, you
will find that Christ had His critics; He had those who wanted to trap
Him; and, of course, He had those who abused Him, especially in the
lead up to His death on the Cross. Those who have seen the movie, “The
Passion Of The Christ” will have seen a glimpse of the horrors He
experienced. I say a glimpse because one historian, when asked about
the brutality shown in the film was quoted as saying: “I think they
understated the horror in that scene. The Romans were far more barbaric
than that when they dealt with criminals.” What that film showed was
bad enough, as far as I am concerned, so if it was probably worse, then
we can visualise the cruelty He suffered. Now being Christ-like must
include that possibility.
Those in many parts of the world
will attest to such suffering. What we are hearing today is just a part
of it. I read much of what is happening in India at present, and the
horrific pictures that are being shown are testimony of the price of
But what does the Bible say about such suffering and trials. St Peter, in his first letter, sums it up like this:
friends, do not be surprised at the painful test you are suffering, as
though something unusual was happening to you. Rather be glad that you
are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may be full of joy when
his glory is revealed.
I Peter 4:12-13 (Good News Bible)
if that isn’t a warning of what we must be prepared for, then I don’t
know what is. I have certainly heard it argued that Peter was only
referring to those of his own time who were suffering persecution. They
are the same people who claim that most of the teachings of the New
Testament were only meant for those who were alive at that time. My
answer to that: then why believe the New testament at all - it is an
argument that makes no sense at all.
Okay, so we are to be prepared for persecution. The warning is clear.
we further read into The Revelation, we are clearly told that as the
end of time draws near, persecution of Christians will increase
drastically (isn’t that happening around the world today), finally
culminating in the 42 months (3 years and 6 months) of the devil’s
final rule. An interesting aspect here is to note that this is almost a
“parliamentary” term of office - 4 year terms are common in many parts
of the world for presidents and politicians and many countries are
changing to this time span. We can be thankful that God has decreed
that 4 years is too long, but it is an interesting observation.
Let’s return to Peter’s warning. What does it really mean to us?
first thing is that if we are not prepared for such trials, then they
will catch us by surprise and possibly defeat us (that is what the
devil is hoping will happen, at least). These trials can be personal
(such as losing someone close to you) through the whole spectrum to
direct physical attacks such as many now bear testimony to happening.
Peter warns us to be prepared.
So, we must not be at all surprised when such things occur to us. Listen to what St. James says in his letter:
“My brothers, consider yourselves fortunate, when all kinds of trials come your way
James 1:2 (Good News Bible)
ourselves fortunate!!!!!! Wow! That is some request that James is
making to us. But isn’t that exactly how Jesus reacted to His trials?
Like Peter, James tells us to be glad when these things happen.
I believe there are two reasons for it.
first is that it gives us some small insight as to what Christ went
through in His life on earth. We can then start to appreciate the price
He has already paid for us in His sacrifice.
Secondly, it is
character building. The Bible promises us that we will not be put to
tests we cannot come through (with the strength and help of the Holy
Spirit) and it also tells us that Christ has always been there before
us, so He knows exactly what we are going through. Remember that gold,
which is such a valuable item and melts easily, is always put through
the fire in order to make it more pure. We are dealt with in the same
In conclusion I say this. Many years ago I heard a preacher
say that if you are not having trials and persecutions then your faith
is of no threat to the devil and he is not worried about what you might
be able to do. Count it a blessing that you are facing trials because
it is a sure sign that you have the devil scared of what your Christian
potential really is.