Last week brought a wonderful moment for those of us worried about religious liberty in the UK as the Asher family (the bakers) from Northern Ireland, were cleared of discrimination after refusing to decorate a cake with the slogan “support gay marriage.” If you saw any of the interviews the family gave afterwards, I’m sure, like me, you would have been impressed by their grace and gentleness, and their unwavering faith in God’s goodness and sovereignty. (If you missed the coverage, do visit www.christian.org.uk the website of the Christian Institute)
Of course, compared to the situation facing many of our brothers and sisters around the world, the threat of being taken to court is only a minor inconvenience. Take a look at these headlines taken from the Barnabas fund’s website.
Church in Niger’s capital ransacked and burned
Fulani herdsman target two Christian communities in nights of violence and arson in Nigeria’s Plateau State- killing 23.
Imprisoned pastors in Myanmar released on condition they stop praying in church
Chinese church raided and looted by 1,000 police and government agents
And I could go on and on and on…
But whilst we might have it easier than many Christians around the world, we are facing increasing pressure from many in our country to keep silent about our faith or to water down our beliefs to fit in with the spirit of the age.
But that isn’t new. Christians of every age have faced this pressure, including the apostles of the early church. How did they respond? Listen to their words in Acts 5: “We must obey God rather than human beings! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard!” And when they were called to suffer for their faith, the apostle Paul writes this in Romans 8:18. “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us!”
More and more people in our country have no idea that the good news of Jesus is good news for them! And they will never know unless we speak up and tell them. That’s our job. All of us who are Christians are called to tell others the good news. Will it be hard? Will there be a cost? Might we be persecuted? Yes! But we must do it anyway. Faithful Christians died to win us the freedoms we have today – let us not dishonour their sacrifice by keeping silent.
(And if you’d like to pray for these persecuted Christians, do come to the vicarage on Friday 30th November at 7pm for a curry and prayer night)