Is it okay to be a secret Christian? Can I be a Christian secretly in order to preserve my life?
For many Christians, worldwide, this is a very serious question. Many believers' lives, or the lives of their loved ones, are placed at stake the moment they confess Christ. In light of this, is it wrong to worship and honor Christ, but secretly, without confessing belief in Him publicly? The answer to this is not confusing, but it is difficult to accept. Jesus said, "So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword" (Matthew 10:32-34).
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Jesus also said that since the world hated him, it would hate his followers (John 15:18-19), and He promised persecution for those who attempt to live a righteous life (Matthew 24:9; Matthew 5:10-12; 2 Timothy 3:12). When Jesus talked of the world in John 15, he was using the Greek word kosmos. Jesus was talking about Satan's evil system and all the people who are plugged into it and controlled by him (John 14:30; 1 John 5:19; Ephesians 2:1-3). Because Satan despises God, he also hates God's followers, and therefore the world hates His followers. Our love for God is a literal stench in their nostrils—the "fragrance of death" (2 Corinthians 2:15-16). Unfortunately, in some societies today, this hatred of Christians leads people to harm and even kill believers. The Lord anticipated this, and said believers would be delivered up to tribulation, and killed, and hated by all nations for the sake of His name (Matthew 24:9). He also said that Christians would be brought before rulers and kings, as a testimony of Christ to those rulers (Mark 13:9).
There is nothing wrong with a believer making attempts to escape being harmed or killed for what they believe. But they must not deny Christ in an effort to save their own lives. Staying silent about one's faith is not an option for a believer. Christians are to be a light, not hidden, but shining for everyone to see (Matthew 5:13-16). We are ambassadors for Christ, which means we represent Him, and we speak His words to those around us that they might be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20). We are to preach the gospel, so that others might come to know Him (Matthew 28:18-20; Romans 10:14-15).
Right after prophesying persecution for His followers, Jesus comforted His disciples with these words: "So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:26-33).
It is terrible, and frightening, to consider the loss of one's own life, or the loss of a loved one, but the Lord is gracious and good. First Peter 4:12-19 says, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. […] Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. […] Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good." Revelation 20:4 talks about those who are martyred during the tribulation reigning with Christ in the millennial kingdom. Furthermore, we know that God will not let evildoers go unpunished (Psalm 37:1-40).
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace.
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