C. S. Lewis said you’ll either love Jesus or you’ll hate him. There is no in-between. “… Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God.”
That choice creates a tension that causes some to build crosses and draw swords and fire guns at people who fall at his feet in worship.
Christianity claims more followers — and more martyrs — than any other religion. Consider these stats*:
- More Christians were martyred in the 20th century than in all other centuries combined.
- Currently over 100 million Christians are being persecuted worldwide.
- North Korea continues to be the worst country in the world for persecution.
- Open Doors (a watchdog and advocacy organization for persecuted Christians) estimates that more than 12,500 Christians have been killed in religion related violence in northern Nigeria between 2006 and 2014, including one whole village that was massacred. Boko Haram violence has claimed most of those lives.
- It is also estimated that Boko Haram related violence has displaced more than 500,000 Christians in northern Nigeria.
- In 2015, Islamic State released a video showing what is believed to be the execution of 30 Ethiopian Christians in Libya. Subtitles refer to the men as “worshippers of the cross belonging to the hostile Ethiopian church.”
- Iran’s parliament believes Muslims who change their faith should be put to death.
- In India, up to 70,000 Christians in Orissa have been forced to flee their homes in riots.
- In Indonesia, in the two years between 2000-2002, Muslims slaughtered 10,000 Christians.
- In Vietnam a new law restricts the growth of Christian churches and violence is on the rise.
- Nepal has laws in place to restrict religion; a constitutional change last year bans all religious conversions.
- Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Sri Lanka all have laws restricting religion.
- Half of Iraq’s Christians have fled the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
- Under Islamist pressure, Coptic Christians in Egypt are being forced from their homes.
- A February video showed Islamic State killing 20 Coptic Christians from Egypt and one Ghanaian.
- By 2012, most of the 80,000 Christians in Homs, Syria had been ‘cleansed’ from their homes.
- In Europe, persecution is becoming a reality through “equality directives.” In 2011, France passed a law banning prayer in public streets — a reaction against the growing Muslim population.
- Seventy percent of the world’s population lives in a religiously intolerant environment.
- Christians are the most persecuted religious group worldwide. An average of at least 180 Christians around the world are killed each month for their faith.
- Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution from their governments or surrounding neighbors simply because of their belief in Christ.
- In 41 of the 50 worst nations for persecution, Christians are being persecuted by Islamic extremists.
The moral of all these stories is simple: Grace is not for wimps. Grace forces us to choose. It isn’t weak or soft. It comes in truth, in power, in supernatural connections. It creates wonders and signs and it offends people who have no room for the supernatural in their lives.
You can’t kill it, though it is intent on destroying everything in you that won’t fit in the Kingdom of God. Be clear on that when you sign up, because grace has no intention of leaving you as you are. Grace is God giving us every option, opening every door, showing us every gate of Heaven. Grace is “God For Us” so completely that there is no room or tolerance for even a shred of our sin, unholy comforts or complacencies.
The goal of grace is the realized Kingdom of Heaven. It is bent completely toward seeing the answer to Jesus’ own prayer: “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.”
Whatever the cost.
Grace is not for wimps but worth the risk. To live a life so anchored in truth and power and prayer, so anchored in the truth that there is more to this life than simply staying alive at any cost, so anchored in grace that nothing rocks the boat — that is worth living for.
And worth dying for.
*Facts documented either by the U.S. Department of State, a reputable news organization or Open Doors, a watch-dog and support group for persecuted Christians.