“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake…” ESV Philippians 1:29
The mainline news organizations paid so little attention to it that you may have missed it, but on March 2, 2011, a fellow Christian was killed because of his faith. As he left his mother’s house, Shahbaz Bhatti, a 42 year old member of Pakistan’s cabinet, died in a hail of gunfire from four assailants because he was a Christian; persecuted for Christ’s sake.
The Apostle Paul was certainly no stranger to persecution and suffering. He was imprisoned on several occasions without just cause, publically flogged, and generally ignored or berated by the masses as he conducted missionary journeys. Yet Paul’s sufferings resulted in the advancement of the gospel and his faith allowed him to view suffering for Christ as an honor.
Even as he penned this verse to the church at Philippi, Paul was likely chained to a Roman guard. Far from being distraught, Paul’s own testimony is that his imprisonment in Rome allowed the gospel to be preached in the otherwise inaccessible venue of Caesar’s guard and fanned preaching Rome itself; all of which served to further the gospel.
Matthew Henry says, “…being persecuted is a token of salvation” which is a good observation I think. History is littered with stories of persecuted Christians. Sheltered and protected (presently at least) as we Christians are here in the United States, I fear we are blissfully ignorant that the church has endured persecution since it was established and will continue to be persecuted till Christ returns. Christ’s return is the blessed hope of all Christians and our reason to endure persecution.
How should we face persecution today? First, we should expect it; scripture tells us that it will come. Secondly, we should face our persecutors prayerfully. Let us pray that persecution, the “token of [our] salvation,” continues to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ amongst the nations in our day just as it did in Paul’s.
Mindy Belz has written an excellent article about Bhatti in the March 26, 2011 edition of WORLD magazine (www.worldmag.com). In it she quotes a filmed interview Bhatti did a short time ago: “These Taliban threaten me,” he said in the clip. “But I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ who has given His own life for us. I know what is the meaning of cross, and I am following the cross. And I’m ready to die for a cause. I’m living for my community and suffering people, and I will die to defend their rights.”
Shahbaz Bhatti; a Christian Brother and martyr persecuted for Christ’s sake. Pray that his death serves to further the gospel in otherwise inaccessible venues.