Why are Christians so hated — Acts 8:1-4
It is no exaggeration to say that the Church around the world faces ever-increasing persecution. In the last century more Christians were martyred than at any other time in church history. According to humanitarian watchdog groups, 150,000 Christians were martyred.last year.
Ever wonder why the world hates Christians so much? Are Christians that undesirable, are they so deserving of widespread persecution? Let’s look at some of the facts. In the 1300s the bubonic plague swept through Europe leaving a death toll in its wake of 30-60%. Included in that terrible number were thousands of monks and pastors. They died attempting to treat and bring comfort to the dying.
Need something a bit more current? The top groups of caregivers for those dying of AIDS are Christians and church-backed hospitals.
Something more personal? On August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina crashed into the Gulf Coast. In just a matter of a day the region was decimated. Within hours of the all-clear signal, thousands of rescue workers descended on the area. I know what you’re thinking, there were than just Christians there. That is absolutely true. But what about the cleanup five years later? On making a trip with youth from Harlan Baptist, we saw with our own eyes and heard the testimony of returned residents that they had been forgotten by all but the Church.
More examples are not hard to find - feeding stations setup after tornados or floods, counselors after deadly school shootings, chaplains, pastors, laypeople reaching into the hurting hearts of the family of one dying. It would seem that Christians are by-enlarge pretty nice folks.
But facts are the facts, in 2011 150,000 Christians were martyred. Why?
A partial answer is found in Acts 8:1-4. The event described in this passage is easily fleshed out by connecting other Biblical texts that point to the reason for the reality of Acts 8. Before reinforcing Acts 8, let’s hear a portion of the passage: “And Saul approved of their killing him. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem.” (8:1); with that as a starting point read the rest of Acts 8:1-4.
Stephen is dead (7:60). His crime? Loving, serving and sharing. He loved and served Jesus Christ and told others about Him. Up to this point Stephen aided in the care of widows in the Jerusalem Church and powerfully debated unbelievers, giving a reason for the hope within him (Acts 6). All-in-all he seemed like a good and kind guy. If such was the case why was he stoned to death? The reason is found in the words of Jesus and in letters sent by the Apostle Paul and others.
Let’s begin with Jesus, and imagine that Jesus’ words are in red. If they were printed in red, all the following would bear the color: You will be hated by everyone because of me (Matthew 10:22); Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. (Matthew 24:9); But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’ (John 15:25); If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also (John 15:20); Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town (Matthew 23:34); I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more (Luke 12:4). Notice a theme? Also note that the only reason for the hatred and persecution was because those on the receiving end of the hatred and persecution were faithful believers in Jesus Christ.
How about the New Testament letters: For we wrestle not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12); For the weapons of our warfare (2 Corinthians 2:10); When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it (1 Corinthians 4:12); everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 2:12); I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained (Revelation 6:9). Again, the theme here is clear, Christians will suffer, Jesus promised it and the early Church to the present experiences it.
But why? That’s the real question isn’t it? If Christians are to be loving, good and helping people why does the world hate them? Back to the Bible: For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12); Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8); Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:11); They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God (John 16:2); The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus (John 13:2).
Finally returning to Acts 8 we see that this passage fulfills the words of Christ and the why explained in the epistles. But did this silence the church, which was no doubt the desire of Satan? No. All persecution did was push the Gospel into a broader arena. Luke wrote, “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” (v.4)
Today, as persecution increases may the spread of the Gospel increase. As our Enemy works harder to silence us, may we, through the power of God and boldness of the Holy Spirit, preach harder to make the story of Jesus heard. Let us not go silently into the night with a whimper, but courageously shine the light of Christ, telling the world of the Savior.