Jason B. Ladd

Ask the Questions. Embrace the Answers. Make the Leap.

12 Powerful Reasons for Enduring Persecution

20140313-121532.jpg

The moment you become a Christian, someone wants you dead. The decision to surrender your status as a spiritual noncombatant by affirming absolutes, objective truth, and the exclusive claims of Christ carries with it the potential for persecution.

After living as a young adult with a secular worldview, I knew my investigation of Jesus of Nazareth might lead to some uncomfortable times with family, friends, and colleagues.

But death?

Who wants to sign up for that? What kind of belief could possibly be worth dying for?

They Truly Believed

The answer lies in the transformative power of a belief that the early Christian apostles refused to recant even in the face of death. According to church tradition:

  • Matthew was cut down by the sword in Ethiopia.
  • Peter was crucified upside down in Rome.
  • James the Greater was beheaded at Jerusalem.
  • James the Less was thrown from the temple roof and clubbed to death.
  • Philip was “imprisoned, scourged, and crucified.”
  • Bartholomew was alive when his skin was peeled from his body.
  • Andrew preached his last sermon from the cross.
  • Thomas was impaled by a lance.
  • Arrows pierced the body of Jude whereupon he gave up his spirit.
  • Matthias was stoned and decapitated.
  • John was boiled alive but managed to escape. He died in Ephesus at the age of 94 after an exile to Patmos where he wrote the Book of Revelation.
  • Barnabas was stoned to death at Salonica.

Nobody dies for something they know to be a lie. The apostles truly believed in the risen Christ and the truth of his message.

But cultures assess truth in different ways.

How We Assess Truth

Culture in the West focuses on individual reasoning and includes encouragement to question both authority and reality in the pursuit of truth.

Dr. Nabeel Qureshi, RZIM itinerant speaker and author of the book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus highlights an important distinction between cultures in the East and in the West:

“People from Eastern Islamic cultures generally assess truth through lines of authority, not individual reasoning.”1

This distinction changes the way beliefs are received, accepted, transmitted, and defended between different cultures.

On her blog Science, Reason, and Faith, Christian apologist Melissa Cain Travis gives us another example of someone defending their belief despite strong opposition via guest-writer Kenn Mann’s third installment in a series titled “The Galileo Affair: Separating Truth from Historical Myth.”

After explaining how the Church’s beef with Galileo was not his rejection of the Bible, but his challenge to their sole authority to interpret the Bible (which included dogmatic devotion to an old idea), Mann explains how the tables have turned:

“The Church and institutional science have merely switched roles over the last 350 years. Today, the fields of science that attempt to explain the origins and development of life are trapped in a dogmatic devotion to an idea imagined over 150 years ago. Despite an overwhelming body of evidence to the contrary, neo-Darwinism is adhered to dogmatically as the only explanation for the development of life. As discussed in the film Expelled and numerous intelligent design blogs, advocating dangerous ideas that contradict the reigning consensus is punished, not with torture or imprisonment, rather the destruction of academic careers. Perhaps that is the strongest lesson we can learn from history; it always repeats itself.”2

The Apostles followed Jesus in life and preached the message of the risen Lord after his death and resurrection. From that point on, they were marked men.

But it was not my decision to follow Christ that led to my bounty.

The fact is, there was a price on my head the day I was born. I was born an American, and for some, that is reason enough to pursue the murderous desires of a desperately wicked heart.

Whether I follow Christ or not, somebody wants me dead. The criminalization of a hate-filled heart should be directed towards those who would do harm, rather than those living out principles practiced by our founders and protected under the Constitution.

And I have some bad news for you if you don’t believe in God:

There’s a bounty on your head, too, and my persecutors and yours are one and the same.

Death awaits us all. It just comes sooner for others.

The question you should be asking is:

How do I best live this life, and what awaits us after death?

You have a lifetime to decide, but an eternity to reflect. Will you be smiling with your answer, or gnashing your teeth?

Related Briefs

1 Nabeel Qureshi, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014, 79.

2 Kenn Mann, “The Galileo Affair: Separating Truth from Historical Myth,” Science, Reason, and Faith, February 17, 2014, http://sciencereasonfaith.com/the-galileo-affair-separating-truth-from-historical-myth-part-3/

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will add value to my readers or will assist them in establishing a coherent worldview. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

About Jason B. Ladd

Jason is an author, speaker, Marine, and father of seven. He has flown the F/A-18 Hornet as a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) Instructor Pilot and the F-16 as an Instructor Pilot. His award-winning book One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview has been optioned for film adaptation. He is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency.

7 Replies

  1. arkenaten

    The list of apostles?

    Really, Jason, I would have expected more from you.

    There is not a single contemporary report of one single martyr’s death. Not one.

    Where on earth did you dig up this nonsense?
    And there are several conflicting reports of these ‘deaths’ as well, are you aware of this?
    As for dying for a lie?

    Good grief, Islamic fundamentalists have been doing this for years.

    You have a lifetime to decide, but an eternity to reflect

    So you preach the doctrine of heaven and Hell?

    The gods…your poor children. This is really so sad.

    And I have some bad news for you if you don’t believe in God:

    My goodness! Your are sounding more and more like a fundamentalist with every post.

    Before long you might be suggesting you are defending your god’s will if you have to fly into combat, and that is one scary thought.

    1. Ark, You should know by now that I make an effort to be careful with my words. That is why when referencing the martyrdom of the apostles I said “according to church tradition” and not “according to a contemporary report released in Skeptic magazine.” I appreciate your point of view, but your comments will need more than a parental sigh of disappointment to be influential.

      I am happy for the dialogue, but your recent responses convey little more than incredulity at the notion of a reasonable person believing in the Christian faith. I gave several phenomenon difficult (perhaps impossible) to explain with a naturalistic worldview (rationality, the capacity to act autonomously, consciousness, awareness, conceptual thought, the articulating and understanding meaningful symbols such as are embedded in language, and consciousness), of which you addressed none.

      I see you may be taking a hiatus from religiosity. Join the club. Bad religion ruins good theology. This is not about “fundamentalism,” wishful thinking, survival value, pair bonding, sunk-cost bias, cognitive bias, or any other psych term.

      It is about attempting to deny the attachment to your own presuppositions in order to recognize truth when it is discovered. It is difficult to be truly objective when evaluating arguments and developing a worldview, but it should still be our goal. If you exploring these topics with the same passion that pities my faith, you will see we are not so different after all.

      But wait until after your hiatus, of course. 🙂

      1. Gregg

        In regards to the killing or Christians: the worst perpetrators are other Christians. Your discussion made me want to check out the statistics for the modern world. I found a well written article by the BBC, you can check it out here:
        Are there really 100,000 new Christian martyrs every year?

        1. Gregg, you found an interesting article which requires I specify the topic of my post. Indeed, the topic of my post was martyrdom–when a Christian is killed for no other reason than having a belief. When a person (who is labeled or claims the label of Christian) unjustly kills another person (who is labeled or claim the label of Christin) over an issue that has nothing to do with Christianity, it tells us that the person is not acting like a Christian and likely is not a Christian. When people fight wars over land, identity cards, power, the right to autonomy and sovereignty, suggesting that the group’s supposed religious identity is a driving factor is misleading. If you are going to use your DRC example, it would be more meaningful to say that in regards to killing Congolese, the worst perpetrators are other Congolese, since the deaths in that country are caused by ethnic rivalrires, corruption, competition for mineral wealth, sexual atrocities, and the like.

  2. “After living as a young adult with a secular worldview, I knew my investigation of Jesus of Nazareth might lead to some uncomfortable times with family, friends, and colleagues.”

    Those who know and distribute unconditional love will remain. Those who do not, well…nice knowing you. We must keep marching forward 🙂