There is no question that Christians in the West are facing greater hostility than ever before. There are several contributing factors to this, and they are converging to create a perfect storm. These factors—some of which we learned about earlier—are eroding what is left of the free exercise of religion.
The most significant difference between countries where Christians enjoy varying levels of religious freedom and countries where Christianity is illegal is that Christians can still turn to the courts to seek legal recourse in the former. They can appeal to laws that protect their right to express what they believe without fear of reprisal or punishment from the government.
That difference is disappearing—fast.
Thanks to the “new tolerance” (which is actually intolerance), the mere act of speaking the truth or expressing an opinion that runs contrary to the prevailing cultural worldview can get your words branded as hate speech. The term hate speech has been redefined to silence all unwanted views—not just those that are truly wrong or hateful. In many countries, if you say something that is interpreted as hate speech, you will face legal consequences.
ADF International’s executive director Paul Coleman is the author of Censored: How European “Hate Speech” Laws Are Threatening Freedom of Speech. In the book, he states that a mere “insult” in Germany can be ruled a criminal offense, and in Poland, to offend someone’s “religious feelings” can lead to two years in prison.
What makes many hate-speech laws so dangerous is that they are intentionally ambiguous. As ADF states in a brief, “Because ‘hate speech’ laws rely so heavily on subjective and unclear terms (such as ‘insult,’ ‘belittle,’ and ‘offend’) they are inconsistently interpreted and arbitrarily enforced. Generally hate speech is considered hateful by reference to the hearer, making it subjective and often with no or little regard for the content of the speech itself.”
The result? The mere act of disagreeing with someone is enough to trigger legal action against you. If a Christian conviction or truth just so happens to offend someone’s personal feelings, by law, you’re guilty of discrimination, intolerance, and hate speech. This provides society with a legal means to silence and prosecute Christians for their beliefs.
We’re already heading in this direction in America. In 2016, Martin Castro, the chairman of the US Commission on Civil Rights, stated, “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.” He further said that “today, as in the past, religion is being used as both a weapon and a shield by those seeking to deny equality.”
Do you see how, in that statement, religious liberty and religious freedom have been deceptively equated with discrimination and intolerance? This kind of blatant misrepresentation opens the door to the creation of laws that prohibit any faith-based ideas, beliefs, or speech that the government concludes are bad for society. In such an environment, freedom of speech—and by extension, freedom of religion—are diminished and are on a one-way street to being eradicated. That’s because freedom of speech is the oxygen that makes democracies possible. Remove it, and authoritarians will gladly fill the resulting vacuum.
When we are persecuted, we benefit in these three ways:
1. Hebrews 12:3 says, “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” Looking to Christ’s example helps give us strength and the ability to persevere when we need it most.
2. Matthew 5:10-11 says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” To suffer for Christ is a source of blessing. We may find that hard to imagine, but biblically speaking, to be blessed is to experience a divinely bestowed sense of bliss and fulfillment. That’s what we receive when we suffer for our Lord.
3. First Peter 4:14 promises, “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” When we are persecuted, the Spirit of God rests on us, giving us strength and endurance that goes beyond what we can handle physically. Remember what God told the apostle Paul? “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
The wisdom to respond rightly to those who treat you unjustly because of your faith. Ask God to help you answer in a Christlike way to the oppositions you face.