That's about the only word that adequately describes how the vast majority of the worlds non-Christians feel about Christians these days. I see it every single day in the media. I mean, literally... Every. Single. Day. From news stories and the comments that follow, to sitcoms and late-night jokers. We are labeled ignorant, fools, idiots, bigots, intolerant and hate-mongers, just to name a few. I can't include a lot of other things we're called because the words are not ones I would ever type let alone say. Mr. Cathy of Chick-fil-a recently experienced an outpouring of hate because he expressed his biblically based beliefs regarding marriage. The Family Research Council headquarters in Washington DC was attacked by a gunman and a guard was shot, all because the shooter didn't agree with what the FRC stands for. Just this week the FRC put out a report called the "Study of Religious Hostility in America" illustrating over 600 examples of what it characterized as "religious animosity shown by judges, government bureaucrats, schools and secular groups" toward Christians.
But we American Christians have it easy as far as persecution goes. Our rights are being attacked every day to be sure, but we still have the freedom to worship in our churches, carry a Bible in public, have Christian radio stations, etc. etc., where as Christians in other parts of the world can't. They could face prison or even death if they are caught with a Bible or meeting together.
Is any of this new? Of course not. Jesus Christ himself was persecuted until death, and he made it clear that we, his followers, would be too. So, lest we begin to feel sorry for ourselves because of what is going on in the world, here is a reminder of what our forefathers -- the very first Christians -- went through for the sake of Christ:
Peter: He was crucified upside down on an x-shaped cross. According to church tradition it was because he told his tormentors that he felt unworthy to die in the same way that Jesus Christ had died.
James: The brother of Jesus and leader of the church in Jerusalem, was thrown from the southeast pinnacle of the Temple, over 100 feet down, when he refused to deny his faith in Christ. When they discovered he survived the fall, his enemies beat James to death with a fuller's club.
James the Great: The brother of John, was beheaded at Jerusalem. His amazing faith in the end so impressed his Roman guard that the man, overcome with conviction, declared his new faith to the judge and knelt beside James to accept beheading as a Christian.
Mark: Died in Alexandria, Egypt, after being dragged by horses through the streets until he was dead.
John: Faced martyrdom when he was boiled in a huge basin of oil in Rome. Miraculously delivered from death, John went to prison on the island of Patmos where he wrote the book of Revelation. After his release, he died an old man, the only apostle to die peacefully.
Paul: After suffering years of torture and imprisonment, Paul was beheaded by the Roman Emperor Nero.
Luke: The physician, author of Luke and Acts, and travel companion of Paul, was hanged in Greece.
Andrew: Peter's brother was crucified on an x-shaped cross in Patras, Greece.
Thomas: The doubter who ultimately claimed Jesus as "my Lord and my God" was stabbed with a spear in Madras, the capital city of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
Barthalomew: Also known as Nathaniel, was a missionary to Asia and present day Turkey. He was flayed to death by a whip for preaching in Armenia.
Jude: Also one of Jesus' brothers, was killed with arrows when he refused to deny his faith in Christ.
Matthias: The apostle chosen to replace the traitor Judas, was stoned and then beheaded.
These men never gave up. They never denied Christ. They didn't give in to those who opposed them.
We can do no less.
This week's Prayer Shout-Out countries are:
USA, Russia, United Arab Emirates