Pick up just about any good book about the history of Christianity, and go to the section on persecution in the first few centuries of the Christian movement. Scan the paragraphs until you come to the part where they describe the reasons why Christians were persecuted, or at least why people in the Roman Empire thought Christians were worthy of persecution.
I took a quick look through Kenneth Latourette’s and Philip Schaff’s works and here’s what I found:
- They accused Christians of hostility to the emperors and conspiracy against the state.
- They accused Christians of incest.
- They accused Christians of cannibalism.
- They accused Christians of being atheists.
- They accused Christians of being “haters of humanity.”
- They accused Christians of being the reason why problems plagued the empire.
That list is interesting for many reasons, especially for the twisted reasons behind these beliefs and accusations. For example, they called Christians “haters of humanity” simply because they didn’t agree with pagan beliefs and they didn’t participate in pagan immoralities.
Yet to me, the most interesting thing about all those beliefs and accusations is they were not true. They were all lies. Christians were loyal, good citizens who only refused to call Caesar “Lord.” Christians were moral, upstanding people in a culture soaked in immorality, they loved others but refused to approve of or join with the immoralities of their age.
This came to mind when I recently read that apparently, according to some surveys, many people in our society think that Christians hate women, hate homosexuals, and are generally a bad influence. Apparently there are also many – perhaps a majority – of Christian young people who believe this about their fellow Christians, and this makes them embarrassed.
I’ll be bold enough to say those are lies. Just because many people believe these lies doesn’t make them any truer. Even if many Christians believe it about their fellow Christians, it doesn’t make it true.
I’m not saying that there are no Christians who hate or who are a bad influence. To those few among us who do hate, Jesus has a word for you: repent. If your opposition to certainly political or social policies makes you hate those who disagree with you, then you are wrong and need to change.
Yet my experience – and that of many others – says that accusations of “hate” or “bad influence” against Christians as a whole are simply lies. The world will lie about us and falsely accuse us. Our duty is to ignore the lies, love like crazy, and be about our Father’s business. If the world lies about us and hates us in return, so be it – but we should live in such a way that shows that the accusations are in fact lies.
If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. (1 Peter 4:14-16)