For the entirety of my life going to church, attending missionary conferences, listening to prayers and preaching, I’ve heard that our Christian brothers and sisters around the world endure persecution like we do not experience. We pray to the Lord of all for Christians in difficult places, for Him to establish their faithfulness, increase their witness, bless their endurance. We compare our challenges as believers—being mocked or left out—and we know that we do not have it as bad.
Of course that has been largely true. And also, there are Christian martyrs in the United States of America in the year of our Lord, 2023. These were Christians in our country, they spoke our language, they were not far away.
Three nine-year-old students and three adult staff at a Christian school in Nashville were shot and killed last Monday by a young woman given over to lies and murderous hatred of her spiritual father the devil. Her sin drove her darkened mind to target for death those that stood for the light of truth as God’s image-bearers, male and female.
No murder is better than another. Every school shooting is painful and horrific. But this school was singled-out because of its Christian beliefs.
Others who have given themselves up to sensuality (borrowing Paul’s language in Ephesians 4:19), who are greedy to practice very kind of impurity, are treating the murderer as the victim. Many who have the microphone, who have their own columns in national news outlets, are blaming Christians for causing their own woes. If Christians didn’t believe what Christians believe, if Christians weren’t such haters of the trans community, then Christians wouldn’t have gotten what came to them.
To whatever degree we thought we were on the sidelines, far away from the people who are really being persecuted, it’s harder to argue that these days. More than that, do we really want the Lord’s blessing? Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).
In the second verse of “The Son of God Goes Forth to War” we sing about Stephen (from Acts 6:8-7:60). We sing this:
The martyr first, whose eagle eye
Could pierce beyond the grave,
Who saw his Master in the sky
And called on Him to save.
Like him, with pardon on his tongue,
In midst of mortal pain,
He prayed for them that did the wrong—
Who follows in his train?
It is a song of battle, of spiritual warfare, to follow in the train of those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.
Christians, thank the Lord for those brave police officers who ran toward danger to kill the murderer before she could take even more lives. Weep with those who weep, and rejoice that those families will have great reward in heaven. And as we prepare for whatever the Lord sends us, let us mourn over our own sin, hunger and thirst for righteousness, and long to be pure in heart. “O God, to us may grace be given, to follow in their train.”