Monday, April 14, 2014

RLPB 256. Persecuted because of the Cross

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 256 | Wed 16 Apr 2014

PERSECUTED BECAUSE OF THE CROSS

By Elizabeth Kendal

To those who believe that Jesus of Nazareth was a mere man, the Cross is a symbol of Christian foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18). 'Jesus was executed,' they scoff, 'and it is ridiculous to suggest that a dead man would rise.'

To Muslims, who believe that Jesus was a mere prophet of Allah, the Cross is a symbol of Christian blasphemy. 'Jesus was never crucified,' they object, 'and it is blasphemous to suggest that Allah would permit such a thing.' (Qur'an, Sura 4:157-159)

To Satan, who knows exactly who Christ is, the Cross is a symbol of his defeat. 'It must not be seen,' he demands, 'and it must not be heard, lest people come to understand what it means.'

To Christians, who believe that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah), the Cross is a symbol of everything we believe about sin, judgment, justice, redemption, salvation, hope . . . and most of all, love.  'It is in the Cross that God shows his love for us,' we say, 'because while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.' (Romans 5:8)

On 4 November 2013, as part of Australia's 'Festival of Dangerous Ideas', an episode of the ABC program 'Q&A' was broadcast from the Sydney Opera House. [Click here for video and transcript.] Peter Hitchens, the lone conservative and Christian amongst a panel and audience of 'progressives', was laughed at, mocked and pilloried for an hour. Finally the panellists were asked: 'Which so-called dangerous idea do you each think would have the greatest potential to change the world for the better if it were implemented?'

Peter Hitchens responded, 'The most dangerous idea in human history and philosophy remains the belief that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and rose from the dead and that is the most dangerous idea you will ever encounter.'

The panel and audience laughed and cheered until they realised that something must be wrong if they were agreeing with Peter Hitchens! At that point, confusion took over and Peter was asked to explain. 'Because,' he said, 'it alters the whole of human behaviour and all our responsibilities. It turns the universe from a meaningless chaos into a designed place in which there is justice and there is hope and, therefore, we all have a duty to discover the nature of that justice and work towards that hope. It alters us all. If we reject it, it alters us all as well. It is incredibly dangerous. It's why so many people turn against it.'

To fallen humanity, the Cross represents a truly dangerous idea, a dangerous choice. For some the Cross represents a threat to their personal sovereignty, sexual freedom and status in the world. For those in hostile environments the Cross represents a threat to their family, liberty and even life. Across the world, including Kosovo, Egypt, Raqqa (Syria) and Zhejiang (China), crosses have been pulled down and smashed, sending a loud message to the Church and the local population that 'Christianity is not welcome here'.

The Cross will always be a symbol of persecution at the hands of a hostile world that wants to be rid of Christ. But for those who understand and believe, the Cross will always be wondrous, a symbol of divine love, hope and life in all its fullness.

WE THANK YOU LORD
for your amazing love, which led you to the Cross for us.

WE PRAISE YOU LORD
for your perfection, which meant death could not hold you and now cannot hold any who are 'in Christ'.

MAY WE never be ashamed of the Cross of Christ our Saviour.

MAY WE never be ashamed of those who are persecuted because of the Cross of Christ.

LORD GIVE US boldness and faith to exalt your Cross at all times so that peoples and nations might see, hear, understand and believe.

AMEN


SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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The Cross of Christ is the most obvious and enduring of all Christian symbols. Satan cannot abide the Cross for it symbolises his defeat. Fallen humanity hates the Cross because it threatens personal autonomy, sexual freedom, power and all that fallen humanity holds dear. In many parts of the world today the Cross is under attack and Christians are suffering persecution because of the Cross of Christ. In Kosovo, Egypt, Raqqa (Syria), Wenzhou (China) and beyond, crosses have been pulled down and smashed to send a loud message to the Church and the local population that 'Christianity is not welcome here'. But for Christians, the Cross will remain a symbol of all we believe and hold dear. The spiritual battle continues -- please pray for the persecuted Church this Easter.

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Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)