Nigerian Christians show us how to face persecution

by Jamie Dean

Posted on Saturday, June 27, 2015, at 4:22 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court’s calamitous approval of same-sex marriage came the morning after I returned from the calamitous corners of war-torn northeastern Nigeria.

As American evangelicals contemplated the impending loss of religious liberty resulting from Friday’s court decision, I remembered Nigerian Christians who lost life and limb because of their allegiance to Christ.

There was the Christian man who refused Boko Haram’s demand to embrace Islam or die. His response: “Nothing shall separate me from the love of Christ.” A black-clad Islamist shot him in the face. (Remarkably, the Christian survived. Many others have perished.)

There was the Christian father I spoke to from his hospital bed, where he was still recovering from a Boko Haram ambush in his village months ago. When armed jihadists demanded he convert to Islam from Christianity, the Christian answered, “God forbid.”

The attackers fatally shot his wife, and nearly killed him with a machete. He survives with a missing right arm, a severely wounded left arm, and five motherless children.

When I asked how I could pray for him, the Christian’s answer was similar to many others suffering great loss in Nigeria: “Pray that I will stand fast.” Indeed, the central concern of many Nigerian Christians I met wasn’t for the removal of their trial, but for their perseverance in it.

So as I join American Christians in lamenting the Supreme Court’s decision, I’m also mindful of these words from the writer of Hebrews: “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” While we soon may face lawsuits or lose tax-exempt status, let’s give thanks we haven’t faced execution or lost everything we own.

I can’t predict what might flow from the Supreme Court’s hubris or God’s displeasure with it, but I can tell you what I’ve just witnessed from Christians suffering far worse abuse in the far corners of the globe: God gives courage when His children most need it, and the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ sometimes shines brightest when the world grows darkest.

Let’s do pray God continues to allow American Christians to exercise their faith without interference from the government, and let’s do press for those freedoms in the months and years ahead. Let’s also ask presidential candidates how they plan to protect those constitutional liberties in a troubled public square.

But let’s punctuate all those prayers and hopes with the plea our blood-stained brothers and sisters in extreme places like Nigeria model for us, no matter what happens next: “Help us to stand fast.”

Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the political beat and other topics as national editor for WORLD Magazine. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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