When the warden for All Saints’ Radford church in Nottinghamshire showed up at the church on Sunday, July 26, 2020, Lorraine Smedley discovered that vandals had painted upside down crosses and swastikas on the church building. The Nottinghamshire police referred to it as a “hate crime.”
Across the English Channel in France, reports indicate the number of attacks against Christian churches in that country has increased nearly 300% in just 12 years according to the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe (OIDACE), a Venice-based organization.
OIDACE reports that in 2018, the French government officially stated that there were 275 attacks, fires and vandalism, against churches in that county. That number had climbed to 1,052 attacks by 2019, representing a 285% increase. Recently, there was an arson attack on a 500-year-old Cathedral in Nantes, France on July 18, 2020.
Unfortunately, this is only the tip of the iceberg because these simply represent threats and attacks against physical structures. In 2018, the French government reported that there were 2,000 hate crimes against Christians. Though it is uncertain what this refers to, it probably includes attacks against individual believers.
This can range from threats and harassment on social media to what happened on July 26, 2016, when a Catholic priest, Jacques Hamel, was beheaded by ISIS sympathizers while he was performing a mass in his Normandy Church.
And even the US is not exempt. In mid July, Sean Clemons, the pastor of Grace Covenant Church in Chantilly, Virginia, was stabbed when an assailant broke into the room where Clemons was leading a Bible study and brutally stabbed the pastor. Fortunately, an off duty police officer was in attendance and was able to subdue the man.
In 2019, a man pleaded guilty to issuing death threats on Facebook against, a Christian organization, the America Family Association. He was sentenced to six months in prison.
Though we hear about how brutally Christians are being treated in Communist countries such as China and North Korea, the same spirit seems to be gaining a foothold in democracies as well.
And this should not surprise us because Jesus prophesied that persecution would be part of the end times in Matthew 24:
9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. (Matthew 24:9-10 ESV)
Notice how Jesus said that believers will be “hated by all nations.” It doesn’t matter whether you live in a democracy or communist regime, no one will escape this persecution.
This means that believers in the west need to toughen up. I know we don’t want to hear this, but it is important we get a grip on it now.
And then Jesus then warned that during this time of persecution, many believers will fall away from the faith. Now this could happen because of the persecution, but I suspect along with this outward persecution, that Satan will be attacking believers with doubts in order to have them deny their faith.
In other words, I look upon increased persecution and people denying their faith as a two-pronged attack taking place at the same time.
In recent years we have witnessed a few public instances of believers in prominent roles walking away from their faith and ministry. Though persecution is increasing in the west, it is certainly not at the level where it would cause people to deny their faith.
And Jesus notes that some of those who do fall away will become the biggest haters and persecutors of Christians.
READ: Pastor brutally stabbed during Bible study and suspect taken down by church members AND Nottinghamshire church ‘distraught’ after swastikas and upside down crosses painted across walls AND Anti-Christian incidents in France rose 285% since 2008: Observatory AND Florida man sentenced for threats against Christian organization on Facebook, tech giant ignored posts