Sri Lankan military officials stand guard in front of the St Anthony’s Shrine, Kochchikade church, after an explosion in Colombo, Sri Lanka. (Reuters pic)


The book of Revelation was written to Christians who were undergoing horrendous persecution at the hands of the Romans and the satanic powers behind them. In Chapter 12, the writer tells us how the saints were able to triumph over the Enemy.

10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:

“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been hurled down.

11 They triumphed over him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.”

(Revelation 12:10–12 NIV)

Three things are mentioned here that led to their triumph over the “accuser”:

First, the blood of the Lamb. The basis of their victory was the finished work of Jesus on the Cross.

Next, was their testimony, the preaching of the gospel itself and what it meant to them.

Third, was their willingness to die for Christ.

Recently I encountered a worship song that proclaimed joyfully and triumphantly “we will overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony”. The song disturbed me because it left out the third part of how we overcome: “…they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death”. I thought the third condition of victory is central to the teaching of the New Testament. Not a feel-good thing to sing about but a basic truth of the Christian life.

That followers of Jesus will experience persecution for their faith is central to New Testament teaching. In His farewell discourse, Jesus warns His disciples to expect persecution (John 15:18–25) In 2 Timothy, a letter Paul expects to be his last one, he tells Timothy: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted . . . ” (2 Timothy 3:12 NIV).

In other words, experiencing persecution for the sake of Christ is the normal Christian experience and the absence of persecution is the exception rather than the norm. Indeed the worldwide church is undergoing a level of persecution we have not seen for a long time and Christianity is the “most persecuted religion today“.

Therefore the recent Easter bombings in Sri Lanka should shock us but they should not surprise us. The bombings were horrific. I lost it when I saw the bodies of the children at their funerals. I thought of the Sunday school teacher asking his little charges how many were willing to die for Christ and how all had raised their hands, and how just after that about half had the opportunity to do so.

Should the Sunday school teacher have asked the question? Maybe the children were too young to understand the full implications of what they had been asked. But the question is a valid one and should be asked often of all followers of Jesus.

Some of us live in parts of the world where the church of Christ has not experienced overt persecution for a while. I have lived in Malaysia, Singapore, and Canada. Although Malaysia experienced the enforced disappearance of a pastor two years ago — Pastor Raymond, a friend of mine — the day-to-day lives of Christians in Malaysia are free of the dangers that brothers and sisters face in many other parts of the world. And thank God, in Canada and Singapore, followers of Jesus are free of direct persecution. How then do those of us who live in countries free of persecution prepare ourselves for it?

I think we should be aware but not be afraid. We must believe God when He tells us we won’t be tempted/tested beyond what we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13).

And our focus must be on Jesus, not on persecution. Each morning we hear afresh the call of Jesus to carry our crosses, to die to a self-directed life and to embrace a Christ-directed one, and see where He leads us that day (Luke 9:23–26). Wherever He leads, we will choose to trust and obey. So, the question is not “Will we experience persecution today?”, but “Will we be faithful to God in whatever contexts we find ourselves?”

In the meantime, we must weep with those who weep. We must tell our brothers and sister in Sri Lanka that they are not alone. We stand with them and, more importantly, God stands with all of us as we await His return, as we await that day when:

“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Messiah.”