|This blog post was written by CGJ Student Staff member Jon Greig.
This is my final blog post for the Center for Global Justice. During the last two semesters, I’ve had the privilege to work on a religious freedom project regarding the nation of Turkey, as I talked about in my last few blog posts. The project is not yet finished, but I know that other capable hands will carry it forward after I graduate.
Since this is my last post, I wanted to offer some thoughts that I hope will be both an encouragement and a challenge to you. We live in a time where there are more words in writing than there has ever been in the history of the world. We live in an age of abundant knowledge (see Daniel 12:4). Yet, we also live in a time of abundant problems, proof that human sinful nature has not changed. One of those problems is certainly religious persecution.
Despite laws and standards in writing
that guarantee religious freedom, when the rule of law is not present in a nation, those rights can amount to little. For example, documents such as the United Nations “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” and “International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” guarantee religious freedom, as does the European Convention on Human Rights. Turkey’s Constitution guarantees religious freedom as well. Despite this paper right, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCRIF) classified Turkey as a “tier 2” status for 2016. This means that religious freedom violations by Turkey’s government are serious and characterized as systematic, ongoing and/or egregious (see http://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/USCIRF%202016%20Annual%20Report.pdf
Dr. Mark Rutland, one of my favorite preachers, writes that right now
is actually the most dangerous time to be a Christian in all human history. He cites a report which states that 90,000 Christians were martyred in the year 2016 and another 600 million were not entirely free to worship. You can read his full blog post here: http://www.globalservants.org/connect/blog/370-new-millennium-martyrdom
It should come as no surprise that Christians all over the world suffer persecution to varying degrees. Jesus promised that if the world persecuted him, we would be persecuted as well (see John 15:18-25). Inevitably, if we follow Christ, we will all face some form of hatred and persecution, even here in the United States.
I believe that a key to overcoming in the face of persecution is found in Jesus’ Parable of the Sower (see Matthew 13:1-23 and Luke 8:4-15). Jesus said that some of the seeds sown by the farmer fell on stony ground. Though these seeds sprang up quickly, they withered away in the sun because of their lack of depth. Jesus explained that this ground represents people who initially receive God’s word with joy, but they stumble when tribulation or persecution arises. They fall away due to not being rooted deeply in the word. Those with good ground, however, bear fruit with the word. Jesus said, “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15).
Opposition tests the quality of the foundation we have built in our lives with God’s word. To draw an analogy, I’ll liken God’s word to rights written on paper that protect religious freedom. Those rights are wonderful rights, perhaps even eloquently drafted. But if the people who are supposed to enforce those rights lack character, the rights can be ineffective. In a nation like ours, governed by “We the People”, the quality of our rights depends on the character of the people. Likewise, God’s word is indeed powerful, but if we do not make it our foundation, it will not bear fruitful character in our lives.
One thing that stands out to me from the parable is that God holds us responsible for what we do with His word. Those who produce a good crop are those with a “noble and good heart.” What does it take to have a good and noble heart? I believe the person with a good and noble heart is the person who humbly receives God’s word and, with child-like faith, commits to persevering as a disciple of Jesus.
One thing I have found beneficial in my walk with Christ is learning to meditate on God’s word. Sometimes I’ll sit by my bed at night with Scriptures I have written out and spoken them over and over out loud to myself. Through this practice, I’ve seen some positive changes in my character; I’ve seen fruit in my life. In Luke’s version of the parable, Jesus said the plants withered away because they “lacked moisture” (v. 6). For a seed to bear fruit, it needs to be watered. Likewise, we need to discipline ourselves to give attention to God’s word, to water ourselves and our families with His word. Through the power of God’s word, despite persecution and pressures, we can be victorious in every opposition and be fruitful in the Lord.
This post was written by a Center for Global Justice student staff member. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.