The answer to the above title is millions of people as they do it all the time. The real question is, “Who would die for a lie, knowing it was a lie” and could easily save their life and that of loved ones by simply denying their faith, converting to whatever their captors demand and not making waves.
This week is the holiest week of the year for most of the 800 to 1 billion people in the world who self-identify as Christians. It is especially poignant this week because as I write this on a Monday morning, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, an icon of Western Christendom, is totally involved in fire and is likely to be completely destroyed according to French fire officials on-scene. The cathedral is around 800 years old, survived the French Revolution and two world wars, was the centerpiece for numerous works of fiction by world acclaimed authors and contains hundreds if not thousands of priceless pieces of western art. My family and I have been blessed to have been able to visit it several times in the past when stationed in Europe.
Over the last few years, France has seen numerous arson attacks upon Christian churches and cathedrals across by thus far unnamed persons or groups. Hopefully, the fire at Notre Dame is not arson but an accident.
Today, Christians have the ironic “privilege” of being the most persecuted faith on the planet. In America, the persecution has thus far been mild, well within the ability of those wronged to appeal to the legal system for redress of grievances. Yet, antagonism to followers of Christ continues to increase, coupled with a massive increase in Americans who self-describe themselves as having no religion and atheism now holding more adherents than all of the mainline Christian denominations combined. Given that much of the American legal system and the underpinnings of our Constitution draw heavily from the Judeo-Christian tradition, this does not bode well for the future survival of the foundations of the Republic, which at its core protects the rights of minorities against a majority mob. It isn’t perfect but millions of people undergo severe hardship every year to enter this imperfect Republic anyway they can. I don’t know of any other nation that experiences this problem while rendering so much assistance to newcomers, regardless of how they got here. But, I digress.
Persecution of Christians is a national sport in some regions of the world, particularly so in Islamic-majority nations when the government is built upon Islam as its governing edifice. Respect for the religious rights of non-Muslim minorities is noticeably absent with Christians often subjected to legal discrimination, harassment, physical attack and legal persecution in the courts with sentences of death or long imprisonment the norm if accused of any perceived slight against Islam. The law is often used to settle personal vendettas or just to seize property or the women of Christian villages. The latter occurs quite often in Indonesia with Christian women, even married women, kidnapped and forced into Muslim marriages with local authorities indifferent to their plight. Islamic militants in Northern and Western Africa, such as Nigeria, regularly attack Christian communities, killing, raping and kidnapping women and children with little effective response by the government.
During the reign of terror propagated by the Islamic State (ISIS), Christians were singled out for gruesome tortures (especially their children) by ISIS, which routinely destroyed communities that had existed for over a thousand years. Millions of Christians have been displaced and forced to seek asylum abroad, but the United States, even under President Trump, has steadfastly ignored the plight of persecuted Christians from the Middle East and reduced acceptance of these refugees by 98% since 2016 according to the Christian charity “Open Doors.”
The persecution of these people is real and deadly as photos of ISIS executioners prepared to decapitate a dozen or more Christian men along a beach several years ago, all of whom refused to recant their faith and convert to Islam.
I opened with the thought “who would die for a lie” and confirmed that millions do all the time but who would die for a lie knowing it was a lie? The New Testament recounting of Christ and his crucifixion nearly 2000 years ago describes a defeated, frightened and hiding group of followers after Christ’s death. Three days later the seminal event of history occurred with the discovery of Christ’s empty tomb and His physical reappearance to his followers, confirming His literal resurrection from the dead. His followers, initially confused and stunned by His appearance, became lions for the faith with 11 of the 12 apostles dying martyrs deaths rather than recanting their faith as Christ being the Messiah, the Savior of the world. The 12th (youngest apostle) died in exile on the island of Patmos to write the Book of Revelation.
Christ was crucified because he claimed to be God and the promised Messiah. His claims are well-documented by thousands of Biblical, historical, literary, scientific and legal facts as espoused by author Josh McDowell (“More Than a Carpenter”) and scientists like Dr. Hugh Ross (“Why the Universe is the way it is”). That Christ’s followers, portrayed as frightened and defeated became lions for the faith is powerful evidence that Christ literally rose from the dead, which is why we celebrate His resurrection at Easter. He is risen!