28 January 2011

Hebrews 10:32-39

"Sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and persecution, and sometimes being partners with those so treated." (v. 33)


In today's passage, the writer to the Hebrews broadens the theme of sacrifice to include the subject of suffering, focusing specifically on the issue of persecution. The writer commends those believers who not only stood up for their faith when persecuted, but also stood alongside others when they faced similar trials.

There are often interesting debates about whether Christians in this country face persecution. While some assert that this is still a Christian country whose Judeo-Christian foundations continue to shape society, others maintain the rise of rampant secularism has undermined these core values, forcing Christianity to retreat from public spaces. It is argued that a subtle form of anti-Christian prejudice exists which does not allow believers to stand up for Jesus without fear of being cut down for their beliefs.

What cannot be doubted is the fact that Christians in Britain do not face the pernicious, institutionalised prejudice experienced by those believers in Hebrews. Moreover, they do not suffer the forms of persecution experienced by believers in other parts of the world today.

There has always been a lively debate as to the degree to which Judeo-Christians ethics have informed the development of human rights, the rule of law, democracy and even economics in western society. Another linked debate revolves around whether the economic powerhouses of the 21st century will be countries that are not from this particular tradition. The last point is important because while many western 'Christian' countries are falling over themselves to get a slice of this economic pie, insufficient attention is being paid to the maltreatment and human rights abuses faced by Christians in these emerging countries. Sadly, this persecution is overlooked or played down for fear of causing an offence that would jeopardise economic opportunities. The writer to the Hebrews affirms Christians when they show solidarity with fellow believers facing persecution. This means speaking out whenever this occurs, irrespective of the circumstances.

To Ponder

How can we stand alongside those who face persecution?

Can economic interests ever outweigh moral or ethnical ones? Why, or why not?

Bible notes author

Richard Reddie

Richard Reddie is an author and researcher, who for three years headed up the set all free project which marked the 2007 slave trade bicentenary. He also worked as an education policy officer for Race On The Agenda (ROTA), a social policy think-tank looking at issues affecting London's Black Minority Ethnic Community.