John 15: 18-21
18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.
Through these Bible verses, we are called upon to consider the persecution of Christians. Jesus speaks both of his own time, and of the time of the Apostles, and of time to come, including the present day.
The persecution of Christians is a live issue at present in the Middle East, through the intolerance of some people and their leaders. In living memory, we recall the oppression and murder of Christians by totalitarian regimes. As we look back through history, we find so many of our saints are martyrs.
We are additionally called to consider our Christianity in our present in our civilized world. We think of those who have lost or who reject Jesus, who mock or insult us for our faith in Jesus. We may think of those all pervasive modes of being and doing which do such harm to ourselves, to other people and to all life on earth, and which persistently threaten to occlude our relationship with God.
There is, for example, the pressure of time. There is the injunction to consume things which might not contribute to our true and spiritual well-being, which do not make us happy, and which deplete the earth’s resources and kill other species while diminishing ourselves.
We are aware of how we poison our atmosphere and pollute our land and seas and rivers, and this for what? Perhaps it is because we seem as a race to insist upon trying to live in ways which are not in accordance with Jesus, because so many of us do not know Jesus. For them we pray.
It is a question a Christian may find himself or herself compelled to consider each day. Where Jesus gave everything for our sake, where the disciples and the early Church gave everything they had and held everything in common, where we are taught by Jesus not to consider the things of this world but to fix our hearts and minds on heaven and the life eternal, how do we, as Christians, negotiate each day in this 21st Century world, such that we may live our lives wholly with Jesus?
Now, as then, it can be a hostile world. And yet, through all adversity, God is with us.
‘No one will be fit to receive the life to come unless he has prepared himself in this life to receive it.’ St Augustine