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By Stephen Green
First Published in Christian Voice February 2009
Dan 3:8 Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews.
Dan 3:9 They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever.
Dan 3:10 Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image:
Dan 3:11 And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.
Dan 3:12 There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
Dan 3:13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king.
Dan 3:14 Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?
Dan 3:15 Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?
Dan 3:16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.
Dan 3:17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
Dan 3:18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
Paganism was a jealous god in Nebuchadnezzar's day. Anyone who would not worship the golden image he had set up was to be burnt alive. No dissent was tolerated. We don't know what advice the king had received or whether he realised that some of his Jewish officers were going to have trouble bowing down to an idol. I suspect that some of the Chaldeans who were jealous of the newly-promoted Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego had orchestrated the whole thing. What we do know from verse 8 is that the Chaldeans were watching them and were quick to use the new law against them.
Secularism is just as jealous a god today as paganism was then. In fact, if we define paganism as the worship of a part or parts of creation instead of the Creator, then secularism, which exalts man and his abilities above God, is our modern version of paganism. There is nothing new under the sun. And the spiritual descendants of those Chaldeans are alive today, devising evil and waiting to use the new law against principled believers.
In the early church Christians came under intense life-threatening persecution. Stephen gave his life for declaring that heaven was open and Jesus was standing at the right hand of God. In pagan
the followers of Jesus Christ went a step further, declaring that He was King of kings. The Romans were allowed to worship anything and anyone as long as they acknowledged Caesar as Lord above all. But if Christ Jesus was King and Lord, Caesar wasn't. That is why the Christians were put to death, not for holding services, prayer meetings or worship conferences, but for their belief that Jesus was supreme.
There are uncanny echoes of that jealous spirit today. In multi-faith
you are allowed to worship what and how you want. Even the militant atheists don't mind us holding church services in buildings. You can do church so long as you remember that secularism is above God. But bring our Christianity out into the public arena, let it influence our behaviour in the work-place, let alone have it direct our legislators, and the secularists have a fit.
But of course persecution is of a different kind in civilised, liberal
, where, as the Army spokesman said in the row over the Creed at
, we can all sit down and resolve our differences over a nice cup of tea. Unlike some of the countries we are looking at in our series on the Persecuted Church, Christians here are not put to death, neither at the hands of illegal mobs nor under judicial process for 'insulting the prophet'. Christians are not routinely taken off the streets, locked away for years or tortured as they are in communist countries.
Nor are our churches regularly trashed as in
, although attacks of vandalism by homosexuals and arson have taken place. But just as
is bringing in an anti-conversion law against Christians, so one has been brought in quietly in
. It is now apparently against the law for a child to convert to Christianity while in the care of a Christian foster parent.
No-one told us that it was illegal to have a child turn to Christ in a foster parent's care. The enemies of the Gospel were not honest enough to pass a law to that specific effect. They did not even sit us down with a cup of tea. They just relied on the outworking of equality and diversity laws. The effect is worse than an honest law would be. The maximum penalty in
will be £3,000 and/or seven years in prison. Here, as full-time foster carers receive a level of compensation, it is total loss of livelihood. In
, for example, a well-qualified foster parent looking after a four-year old and a five-year old could expect £345 a week, which would leave a decent sum even after food and clothing are provided for the children.
Which brings me to the title of this piece. Martyrdom in
today is no longer the 'red' martyrdom of the stake. It is the 'green' martyrdom of the five pound note. Believers will not be hauled before judges and forced to renounce their faith on pain of death. They will be brought before heads of department and made to suffer financially. It is not life, it is livelihood which will be taken from Christians in
today if they do not bow down to secularism and accept its anti-Christian values.
In the majority of the cases we list on pages 4-5 of our February newsletter, money was involved. People have lost their jobs or their income because they would not compromise their Christian faith. That is not nearly as dramatic as losing your life for your faith. There will be no memorial set up for them. There will be no spot we can visit. No books will be written. Nevertheless, their financial sacrifice has been just as heroic in its way.
The Children of Israel would not bow down and I am in awe of their response. They told the most powerful king of their age they weren't bothered. God would save them, and even if He would not, they would still not serve his pagan gods. We know how it turned out. God did save them and was glorified through it. That day will come, and there will be those who are saved. We in Christian Voice will support anyone in that situation through prayer and action and victories have been and will be won.
But Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego were conscious that everything would be done according to the will of God. God might not save them. But even if His will was for them to perish, they still would not bow down. Times are hard today. A recession is not the best time to take an economic stand. The lack of employment and business alternatives make green martyrdom a frightening reality. May God grant all Christian believers the courage to hold to the Faith and give those in power the answer Nebuchadnezzar received. He bowed down to the King of kings. Who knows what God will do in the hearts of those we stand up to in the name of Jesus Christ?