A long time ago in a land far away a group of God followers faced persecution. Many of them were imprisoned for their beliefs. They could not follow the state dictated religion with good conscience. Not following was considered treasonous. Instead of going underground, they fled… If they had not fled American history would look different. If they had not fled we wouldn’t be celebrating Thanksgiving.
With so much religious persecution in the news these days it has gotten me to wonder when fleeing is the answer and when is it better and more honorable to suffer for the sake of Christ.
The answer isn’t so simple.
Should I Go or Should I Stay?
Here are two passages which appear to encourage those who are persecuted to stay and continue faithfully living as they are for the sake of Christ:
I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.
Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
It is also important to note missionaries today willingly choose to go to places in the 10/40 Window knowing they will face persecution so they can spread the hope-giving message of Jesus in hostile areas. Read more about the 10/40 Window here.
There are also examples of situations where God told His faithful to leave. Here are two I thought of and I am sure you can think of others.
*God made a way through Moses (after many years of suffering) for His people to be set free from racial/religious suffering and enslavement in Egypt.
*Jesus told his disciples when they went town to town preaching His Word If people did not welcome them they should simply move on. (Luke 9:5)
It is commonly believed the Pilgrims interpreted the 2 Corinthians scripture, “Therefore, ‘Come out from them and be separate…” as a mandate they should leave England. Is this even appropriate Biblical interpretation??
The Pilgrims were persecuted. They also wanted to right to establish themselves as the rightful interpreters of the Bible independent of the Church of England. In 1608 they first went to Holland before coming to America. What many don’t talk about is the Pilgrims DID find religious freedom they were looking for in Holland. Holland was in fact likely too multicultural and the Pilgrims were afraid their children might be swayed from their strict Pilgrim ways. Some Christians in Holland celebrated on Sundays with games and festivities. That didn’t work for them. The Pilgrims also struggled with manual labor jobs in Holland and a language barrier. All of these factors together caused the Pilgrims to move along to New England. (Read more on the Pilgrims’ stay in Holland here)
The Pilgrims didn’t want a melting pot. They wanted to shape the culture. Interestingly enough there are still glimpses of the Pilgrim’s faith here in America, but modern America is largely the melting pot the Pilgrims were avoiding. Today The Netherlands are largely secular with a growing Muslim population. I have to wonder what The Netherlands would be like today if the Pilgrims had learned the language and learned to be in the world but not of it? (John 17:14-15) Since The Netherlands are a smaller geographical region it is highly possible the Pilgrims would have had an even greater religious impact there than in America.
In some ways I can imagine persecuted Christians must long for the freedom of the Pilgrims. Terrorized minorities don’t have a sparsely settled, fertile land they can repopulate. There are visas and embassies and red tape. One must prove they are deserve refugee status.
Today in a land far away a group of Christians are given three choices: 1. Convert to Islam 2. Leave 3. Die. Many of them are fleeing to preserve their lives.
What do You think? Sound off. Do you think the Pilgrims should have stayed home? Do you think persecuted Believers today have it easier or harder than the Pilgrims? Do you think settling in Holland would have made more sense for the Pilgrims?
To learn more about how you can pray for the persecuted church, check out the ministry Voice of the Martyrs.