“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, A slave is not greater than his master ‘ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. ‘But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘THEY HATED ME WITHOUT A CAUSE.’ When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”
We are getting reports out of Cuba that the persecution of Christian pastors continues. I suppose we should not be surprised. Although changes have occurred on the island, the Marxist leaders who began this trek into totalitarianism over 50 years ago still rule it with an iron fist, and there is little room for religious freedom. From Christianity Today, we read about a group of protestant pastors from the Apostolic Movement who have recently been dragged into the police station and interrogated for holding services in their homes. One of their pastors is currently in jail, and the authorities are trying to coerce the others into ceasing their services. Apparently the Cuban government feels threatened by their meetings. The Castro brothers have long had an adversarial relationship with Christianity, fearing plots to overthrow the revolution.
Christianity is not always easy. Here in America, we enjoy a freedom of religion like no other place in the world. God surely has blessed this nation. We take it for granted that we can walk into a church or home and worship Jesus freely, singing songs and quoting scripture without fear of incarceration. We forget how Christianity began – a group of Jesus followers who braved stonings, beatings, curses, and other horrible things to spread the word of our lord and savior. No, it is not always easy.
“Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
The story above is about the apostle Paul, before he converted to Christianity. As you may know, before becoming the great Paul we know and love, he persecuted Christians, and was responsible for the death of many of them. Then Jesus came to him and uttered the words that would change him forever. Why do you persecute me? It was the knock on his heart that changed him forever.
To those of you in Cuba, and anywhere else, that choose the ways of Saul of Tarsus, I say to you – why do you persecute us? There will come a day, when each and every one of us stand in front of Jesus and is called to account for our actions in this life. Do you really want to have to explain why you incarcerated His children for seeking a relationship with Him? Do you really want to suffer the wrath of an angry Father who seeks justice for His children? It is not too late. You can be like the Apostle Paul, or you can be like Saul of Tarsus – your choice.
To my brothers and sisters in Christ on the island, I ask you to hold steady. Remember that to those who are faithful are granted eternal life. I know it is not easy, but this should be a reminder to us all that this world is not meant to be heaven. Heaven is what awaits us, and the evils of man should warn us of the fallen world we will gain victory over one day. Keep your faith, and pray for those that persecute you, that they may be like Paul, and join you in your battle for the lost souls of this world.