“I believe in God our Father, I believe in Christ the Son, I believe in the Holy Spirit, our God is three in one. I believe in the resurrection, that we will rise again… I believe in life eternal, I believe in the virgin birth, I believe in the saints’ communion and in Your holy Church. I believe in the resurrection when Jesus comes again, for I believe in the name of Jesus.” —Hillsong
“Yes, I am a Christian.”
A few days ago, those are the words that several students unashamedly declared and, seconds after, were shot and killed for. By now, I’m sure pretty much everyone has heard about the shooting at a community college in Oregon. In one classroom, the gunman ordered everyone to stand up and, one by one, asked each student to state his or her religion. After discovering which students were Christians, the gunman responded, “Good, because you’re Christians, you’re going to see God in just about one second,” before shooting the Christian students in the head.
In Ancient Roman times, Christians were heavily oppressed: they were publicly ridiculed and beaten and killed, just for refusing to denounce their belief in the Christian God. The only way to save themselves from execution was to betray God and offer a sacrifice to the Roman gods and emperor. Despite the “easy out,” many Christians refused to deny their faith and were therefore executed and later named martyrs by fellow Christians. In more recent years, the Islamic State (ISIS) has claimed the lives of thousands of innocent people, most of whom were Christians. Despite the biblical recounts and news headlines about Christians being persecuted, that’s never really something that I, as a Christian, have had to deal with so far. For most of my life, I have been in the majority with my beliefs—I attended a small, private, Christian school for thirteen years; I went to the same church for most of my life; and even the restaurant I worked at had Christian owners that regularly played Christ-centered music and had it in its mission to glorify God. While I did, of course, have some friends who were not Christian, most of them shared my beliefs. I did get questions every so often from non-Christian friends, though they were never rude about it. Even now, at a public university where my choice to follow Christ is very evidently a minority belief, it isn’t really much of an issue. I might occasionally get a few weird looks or, at the most, a snide remark or two; but so far, that’s the worst of it (which isn’t bad at all).
Basically, what I’m trying to say is that being victimized for my beliefs is never something I have ever truly faced. The “what if” thought crosses my mind every once in a while, but I’ve never dwelled on it for long. With the news of the recent Oregon shooting, however, the idea has been on my mind a lot more frequently, and I can’t help but ask myself an admittedly-eerie question: How would I respond in that situation? If an armed man or woman pointed a gun at my head and demanded to know if I was a Christian, how would I react? Would I say yes even if it meant immediate death? It should sound like an easy answer, and my mind’s immediate reaction is, “Of course I would say yes!” But when I think about it a little more, I realize that it’s not quite that easy. I wish I could say with 100 percent confidence that I would affirm my beliefs, but I can’t. I would really like to think that I would, but that’s just not something I would be able to tell for sure unless I was put in that situation. Just think about it for a moment: When a man with a gun asked these college students if they were Christian, they had to have known that that single word of affirmation—”yes”—was a death sentence. They likely had no more than a second or two to answer, and in that couple seconds, they had more thoughts running through their minds than their entire 18-plus years combined. They undoubtedly thought of their family—mom, dad, siblings, grandparents, and whoever else was a big part of their lives. Names and faces of countless friends flew threw their minds as memories flooded their senses. They probably thought of all of their dreams and plans and goals they had for life; and they definitely realized that, by saying yes and confirming their faith in Christ, those would all be gone in an instant. Despite all of that, though, those students stood up for what they believed in even though they knew it would cost them their lives and futures.
Now, whether you’re a Christian or not, here is my challenge to you: Always stand up for what you believe in no matter what others might say or do. Even if you get ridiculed or mocked for them, don’t be ashamed of your opinions and beliefs. It will be tough at times, and there will be moments when you just want to give up; but in the long run, you won’t regret your decision to stick to your beliefs and stand for who you are. I sincerely hope and pray that you are never put in a situation where you have to decide between your ideology or your life, but other (hopefully less life-threatening) challenges are inevitable; and when they do come your way, I challenge you to have the strength and courage to stand your ground and stay true to who you are.