Persecution and Thanksgiving
The Orthodox writer Rod Dreher has popularized the Law of Merited Impossibility, as applied to Christians: “It’s absurd to say Christians are persecuted, and boy do they deserve it.” But then there is this from Britain’s Independent today:
According to the International Society for Human Rights, a secular group with members in 38 states worldwide, 80 per cent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed at Christians. The Centre for the Study of Global Christianity in the United States estimates that 100,000 Christians now die every year, targeted because of their faith – that is 11 every hour. The Pew Research Center says that hostility to religion reached a new high in 2012, when Christians faced some form of discrimination in 139 countries, almost three-quarters of the world’s nations.
In our homes and churches, let us step up our prayers for those persecuted around the world for Christ’s name, as well as all those oppressed and in need, and let us also consider practical ways to support and to help them. In particular, let us appeal to the martyrs of the Church to intercede on behalf of Orthodox Christians and churches beset by this persecution. Those of us in places where we are not physically threatened or hard pressed may remember, as we face cultural and social stress on a much lesser level, the words of Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov, in speaking of the New Martyr Hilarion Troitsky, in preparing ourselves:
How very different we are from those new martyrs and saints who overcame the world! When we stand before God to repent of our evil and sins, our confession from year to year becomes less and less like a confession and more and more like a faint-hearted cry and complaint against life. The great power of Christianity is forgotten; we have forgotten that we must be conquerors in this world—conquerors of evil. Constant complaints about our neighbors, about our life circumstances, endless depression and despair—these things are woefully conquering the Orthodox Christian today. Faintheartedness instead of courage is becoming a major quality of the soul of modern man. In your patience possess ye your souls (Lk. 21:19). Many people, even in the Church, are forgetting about this patience and courage, forgetting that everything on this earth is sent from the Lord, even in these particular circumstances that God has called us to be in; forgetting that we must labor and force ourselves patiently and courageously. People seek a compromise, an easy path and self-justification, and as a result the Christian spirit is lost. However, a fearful Christian is not pleasing to the Lord. The spirit of God departs from such a person and leaves him one on one with his helplessness, his frailty, his terrible despondency, when instead he should be gaining at long last the wisdom to thank the Lord for all the trials He has sent; thank Him, because a true knowledge of God comes only through thanksgiving. Fallen man cannot come to know God in any other way.
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