In today’s Bible reading, we see a very wise, well-respected religious leader, Gamaliel who advises the other religious leaders to back off in persecuting the followers of Jesus. He says that if this is like the other times with other radical leaders, the movement will die off in time. However, he says, if this is a God-thing, you will find yourself fighting against God. And that won’t work out well for you. (Acts 5:39) So the other leaders agreed. They had the apostles flogged and sent them away, forbidding them to preach in the name of Jesus.
So how did the apostles respond? “Then they went out from the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be treated shamefully on behalf of the Name.” (Acts 5:41 CSB)
Many Christians in America think they know what persecution is. We’ll often see Facebook posts complaining that store cashiers are told they can’t say “Merry Christmas” to customers. We often lament that America would be such a better country again if only we could get prayer back into the schools.
Newsflash: Most Christians in America have no idea what real persecution is!
It is impossible to remove prayer from school. Prayer will never be absent in American classrooms as long as students are required to do work and take tests!
Honestly, it was never the responsibility for classroom teachers to teach our children how to pray. And teachers probably had very little impact on students when they said an opening prayer at the beginning of the day or to say the blessing when students lined up for lunch.
And if prayer were to be “allowed” back in the classroom, who determines the person leading the prayer? If I still had a student at home, I personally wouldn’t want a Wiccan, Hindu, Muslim, or any other unbeliever leading my child in prayer to a god my kid doesn’t believe in.
If you think you know what persecution is, let me ask you when was the last time you were beaten with sticks simply because you talked about Jesus? When was the last time you were the target of hand-sized rocks, dragged out of town and left for dead simply because you talked about Jesus? When was the last time your shirt was torn off your back and you were repeatedly beaten with a cat-of-nine-tails simply because you talked about Jesus?
And yet, that’s what happened to believers in the early church on a regular basis. This was done by religious leaders! All because they dared to talk about Jesus.
Their response was startling, “They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to be treated shamefully on behalf of the Name.” (Acts 5:41)
The next time you feel that you (or another believer) are told you can’t wear a cross on your work uniform or you’re told that you can’t say, Merry Christmas, ask yourself 1) is this really worthy of being labeled “persecution” and 2) are you rejoicing that you are being persecuted — or are you just griping?