When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.
~ Matthew 10:23a (NIV)
One of the clear biblical responses to persecution is to flee. But it is not the only response. Thus it is imperative that the persecuted believer is sure that his running away is in the will of God. History is full of examples of Christians who relocated because of religious persecution.
The early Christians in Jerusalem were not obeying Jesus’ orders in Acts 1:8 (evangelize to the ends of the earth) so God allowed an Acts 8:1 (persecution) to send them on their way. The original text indicates the persecution accomplished the will of God for as they scattered abroad, they went “gossiping” the gospel (Acts 8:4). The first meaning of the word “gossip” was “to chat” or “rehearse.” The early Christians, when scattered by persecution, could not help but repeat the glorious message of the gospel to everyone they met.
The Apostle Paul left Damascus over the wall in a basket when a life threat was discovered early in his ministry. He was not just trying to avoid persecution, but he knew it was not yet God’s timing for his life and ministry to end. That occurred years later in Rome.
Today an Egyptian Christian leader is in hiding because he has the highest price on his head—four times more than Osama Bin Laden ever had. Zakaria Botross’ entire life story is that of defying death. The total price for his elimination (a fatwa), at last report, was one hundred million dollars. This is because his ministry to Muslims is so challenging, effective and productive. If his arguments cannot be countered then his voice must be silenced.
He was one of the most striking figures of the Coptic Orthodox Church. In 1964 he had a conversion experience which changed the direction of his ministry to thousands of people. Not only did Father Zakaria preach for conversions to Christ and to strengthen believers, he also effectively rebutted accusations against Christianity made by Islamic leaders. He is a scholar of ancient Arabic and knows the Koran and the Hadith (Islamic traditions) so thoroughly that Islamic scholars find it difficult to refute his teaching or counter his challenges.
His zealous activities could not help but attract the notice of the authorities of the State. He was removed from his church. Twice he experienced imprisonment for ministering to Muslims and leading them to faith in Jesus. He was accused of the ultimate crime, evangelizing Muslims and thereby inciting religious factionalism. Then he was deported and exiled from Egypt. His subsequent ministry in Australia and the UK was successful but not with everyone’s approval.
Today as an elderly senior, he lives in hiding in the West because more than sixty million people—most are Muslims—watch his satellite TV programs and visit his website. Countless millions across the Arabic speaking world are turning to Christ annually because of his ministry.
Like the Apostle Paul, Father Zakaria runs and hides, not because he is afraid of dying, but by defying death has been able to have the most effective ministry in the world to Muslim people.
RESPONSE: Today I will resolve to only run from persecution when I know it is the will of God.
PRAYER: Pray for leaders like Zakaria Botross who have to live in hiding because of their effective ministry for the Lord and His church.