Last year Catholics and Muslims came together in a joint declaration declaring some of their common beliefs which included “a rejection of all forms of proselytism” (Radio, Vatican, 2016) In other words, they reject all forms of evangelism. They also agreed that when they go out and do good works such as helping the needy this work “should never be used to proselytize.”
Something very similar happened during the dark ages. A decree was issued in 1521 in an effort to suppress the reformation, “As a compromise it was finally proposed that where the Reformation had not become established, the Edict of Worms should be rigorously enforced; and that “in those where the people had deviated from it, and where they could not conform to it without danger of revolt, they should at least effect no new reform, they should touch upon no controverted point, they should not oppose the celebration of the mass, they should permit no Roman Catholic to embrace Lutheranism.” (Daubigne)
The edict of worms was a decree issued in May of 1521 by Emperor Charles V which read “For this reason we forbid anyone from this time forward to dare, either by words or by deeds, to receive, defend, sustain, or favour the said Martin Luther. On the contrary, we want him to be apprehended and punished as a notorious heretic, as he deserves, to be brought personally before us, or to be securely guarded until those who have captured him inform us, whereupon we will order the appropriate manner of proceeding against the said Luther. Those who will help in his capture will be rewarded generously for their good work.”
In other words, the Roman Catholic Church made a law making it illegal to proselytize. During the dark ages it is thought that the numbers of victims of that organization have numbered 50-150 million. This is no small work. The torturous ways in which they have done these things have no semblance of Christ. There is no doubt that Jesus Christ would have been outlawed by this church from proselytizing during these dark ages had he walked the earth during this time.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are well known for door to door work sharing their understanding of the bible and their faith. Though not well received by the public, many are doing what they understand to be the commission that they have been given from Christ. Which is to “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15) In other words advocate, promote, teach, tell, and proselytize. It is written that “if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isa 8:20) So if a law was made contrary to our faith, then we would have a choice:
1. Obey God
2. Bow to Man
Similar laws were made against the apostles when they were “proselytizing” the Jews. We read of it in the book of Acts chapter 5.
Acts 5:28-29 Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
The apostles were making many converts, they were going forth teaching, healing the lame and sick, and so the Jewish leaders did what they could to outlaw the apostles. They threw Peter in jail, then after an angel let him out, they caught them proselytizing again in the temple and brought the apostles before courts.
Is it possible that we are going to have to stand before courts to answer for our faith? Absolutely. Are we ready to stand for God? Or will we be among those who bow to Caesar? If we are followers of Christ, we cannot help but proselytize in his name.
It was reported last year in February of 2016 that Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill had ended a 1000 year schism between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. They declared their intent to end Christian persecution. (Burke, 2016) However, it seems the opposite is coming to pass. We read from Christianity Today July 16th, 2016 from an article entitled “Russia’s Newest Law: No Evangelizing Outside of Church”:
“Christians in Russia won’t be allowed to email their friends an invitation to church or to evangelize in their own homes if Russia’s newest set of surveillance and anti-terrorism laws are enacted.” (Shellnut, 2016)
Protestants cannot evangelize. BUT…. A recent article from the Catholic News Agency is entitled “New religious laws in Russia not expected to hurt Catholic Church”. (Rezac, 2016) Is it any wonder? Why would it hurt a church unless they were obeying the divine commission of Jesus to go and preach the gospel? It matters not to the Catholic Church and of course Catholic’s are not going to be affected by it.
On April 21, 2017 the Supreme Court criminalized the activity of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Not only have they made them outlaws if they choose to continue their faith, but the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the claim filed by the Ministry of Justice “to liquidate the religious organization ‘Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia’ and the local religious organizations that are part of its structure [and] to turn over to the Russian Federation all property of the liquidated religious organization. (Supreme Court Rules to Criminalize the Activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, 2017)
That is no small matter. Now some may be reading and saying “Wow, glad this isn’t happening to me. I’m a Seventh-day Adventist and am thankful for the freedoms we do have.” Or “I live in a free America”. Well, first off, the ban not only affects Jehovah’s Witnesses, but it also affects Mormons and Seventh-day Adventists.
The Catholic Church runs a media project called Aleteia. On their website they have an article called “Pacifist Jehovah’s Witnesses now banned in Russia as “extremists”. In this article, talking about the anti-evangelism law of 2016 this is what we are told.
“Jehovah’s Witnesses are not the only ones affected, she said. The law applies also to Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists, for example.
She said that the Orthodox in the south of Russia are generally very religious and see groups such as 7th-Day Adventists as competition. “There have been many examples of people from Christian [sects] going into Orthodox churches and distributing literature or in some way disturbing church services… they are being perceived as the guys coming in and taking away our future converts.” (Burger, 2017)
Seventh-day Adventists are also a target of these laws. And using State to enforce religious law has never been something that the Papacy has shied away from. In America today many religious laws, free speech laws, as well as laws against the press are being made, and the time is coming upon us where we shall be brought before the courts to answer for our faith by some of our Sunday Keeping brethren. Some will be levied with fines, some thrown in jail, and some will be offered positions of influence to silence them. May God give us the strength to stand in this time of persecution where the love of many will wax cold.
Burger, J. (2017, April 22). Pacifist Jehovah’s Witnesses now banned in Russia as “extremists”. Aleteia. Retrieved from http://aleteia.org/2017/04/22/pacifist-jehovahs-witnesses-now-banned-in-russia-as-extremists/
Burke, D. (2016, February 13). In historic meeting, Pope and Russian patriarch issue plea for persecuted Christians. CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/12/europe/pope-francis-patriarch-kyril-meeting/
Daubigne. (n.d.). Book 13 Chapter 5.
Radio, Vatican. (2016, July 5). Catholics, Muslims highlight shared beliefs for social and political life. Vatican Radio. Retrieved from http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/05/07/catholics,_muslims_highlight_shared_beliefs_for_common_good/1227793
Rezac, M. (2016, July 17). New religious laws in Russia not expected to hurt Catholic Church. Catholic News Agency. Retrieved from http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/new-religious-laws-in-russia-not-expected-to-hurt-catholic-church-87450/
Shellnut, K. (2016, July 8). Russia’s Newest Law: No Evangelizing Outside of Church. Christianity Today. Retrieved from http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2016/june/no-evangelizing-outside-of-church-russia-proposes.html
Supreme Court Rules to Criminalize the Activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. (2017, April 21). Retrieved from https://www.jw.org/en/news/legal/by-region/russia/supreme-court-rules-to-criminalize-jehovahs-witnesses-activity/
From our May 2015 Newsletter, If you haven’t received a FREE mailed copy of this months newsletter and would like to. You can signup by clicking HERE