In another sad news, gunmen entered a Roman Catholic Church in the Owo State of Nigeria and rained gunshots on the Sunday worshippers killing and injuring many people. This news comes on the heels of the release of the Catholic priest with a huge ransom to his captors.
What in the world is going on with each passing day being awashed with such sodded news of human murder and cruelty? What must we do as believers in the face of such hostility without provocation on our part? Should we pay them in their own coin? How can we reason through such matters from the Scriptures to stay faithful to God in our earthly sojourn?
Let's explore what the Bible says:
#1. Evil Abounds In The Human Race
As far as we are on this side of eternity, evil will never cease. The effects of sin will be with us today and tomorrow. In fact, the Bible predicted that evil would grow worse and worse (2 Timothy 3:13). Things will not improve but worsen. Since the dawn of human history, cruel acts of men have been with us. History has it that King Nero of the New Testament times, orchestrated a grand plan to burn part of Rome so that he could blame Christians, imprison, and kill them. Another popular case was when Adolf Hitler killed many of the Jews in the genocide. There are many more we can cite as attempts to wipe out Christians by evil men being controlled by Satan. We must not be ignorant of his devices throughout history. Christ said he will build His church and the gates of hades will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).
#2. Death Is Inevitable Part Of Our Life
The second point worth noting is that death is part and parcel of our human nature. Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 3:2 that there is time for everything. There is time to be born and there is time to die. But guess what, if all will one day die, the major question is: in what condition will you die? It is appointed unto man to die and after death judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Will you die in your sin, or you will repent and come to saving faith? When the tower in Siloam fell on some 18 people and killed them, some people came to ask Jesus His take on the incident. Jesus didn't mince words in replying to them that it didn't matter how they died but what matters is if they repented or not. (Luke 13:1-5)
#3. Persecution Does Not Kill The Faith
If there is anything synonymous with the Christian faith it is persecution. Just as our Master Jesus faced it, we shall equally battle with it until He comes to end all suffering in the New Jerusalem (Revelations 21:4). In fact, Jesus promised His disciples that in this life, they will face persecution (John 16:33). James said that the testing of our faith produces perseverance (James 1:2-3). In Acts 8:4, when the believers were being persecuted, they spread abroad and wherever they were, they shared the gospel and lived like Christ. The Apostle Paul says that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Kingsley Opuwari Manuel has said that "Persecution for Christians is not a possibility, it's a promise, it's not a maybe, it's a surety! Following Jesus can mean finding the trouble you've been looking for!" Persecution is part of our life.
#4. We Must Not Fight Back In Like Manner
I am sure in a time like this, especially in Nigeria, some experts or even Christians will recommend Christians should carry guns on them to protect themselves. Should that be our response to persecution and killings? Should we locate the assailants and pin them down until they die as well? Well, what does the Bible say about this? Jesus said in Matthew 5 that when we are persecuted, we should rejoice and be glad for great is our reward in heaven.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:43-45 NKJV)
We are more like Christ when we respond with love to those who persecute us with hate and killings.
#5. We Must Live And Preach The Gospel
The last item on my list is that we must keep preaching the gospel in season and out of season. In Acts, when the disciples were scattered due to persecution, they preached the gospel of Christ wherever they found themselves. At another time after they were flogged by the religious leaders for preaching the gospel, they went to their own and prayed together for courage to continue the work (Acts 4:23-31). Think about this: if we decide to fight back, will it change them? If we hate them, we are behaving like pagans. The only Christ like option we have is to pray for them and ask for forgiveness for them.
The Christian perspective on such matters must be biblical and Christ-like. It is in times of turbulence that our true godly nature is exhibited. The late evangelist and author Billy Graham said that "No Christian has the right to go around wringing his hands, wondering what we are to do in the face of persecution, confusion, wars, and rumors of wars, we are to comfort one another with the knowledge that Jesus Christ is coming back in triumph, glory, and majesty."
May the Lord comfort those affected and change the heart of the perpetrators.