Just about everybody loves fun facts. With that in mind, did you know that Antioch, which is in modern-day Turkey, is where followers of Jesus were first called Christians (Acts 11:26)? Who knows, it may help you win a game show someday. Unfortunately, this fun fact has a not-so-fun aspect to it: there aren’t many Christians in Antioch anymore.
In fact, there aren’t many Christians in the Middle East at all these days. Recently, Canon Andrew White said that the end of Christianity could be “very near” in Iraq. What has the response been from the United States? To put it mildly, it’s been a little underwhelming. The collective shrug of the shoulders even led Congressman Frank Wolf to wonder aloud why people aren’t talking about it. What gives?
Well, in Iraq, things were going pretty well for Christians under Saddam Hussein. Obviously, he wasn’t the nicest guy, but he tolerated Christians. Since the US removed him from power, and things aren’t going well for Christians in Iraq today, it’s inconvenient for American politicians to discuss the matter. Is their silence an admission of guilt, or is it nonchalance?
If it’s the latter, I’m afraid I have bad news. Whether you’re a Christian or not, the way you treat followers of Christ matters. 1 John 4:20 says “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” In other words, if you claim to be a Christian and the blood of Christians is on your hands, you’re not a Christian. On top of that, Jesus cares a lot about how you treat His followers. He went so far as to say “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40).
Based on this passage, you’ve probably been taught that when you do something for the poor, sick, hungry or imprisoned, you’re doing it for Jesus. With all due respect, that’s wrong. This passage is describing two groups: sheep and goats (Matthew 25:32-33). Jesus is determining if they are worthy to enter His kingdom at the end of the age. What criteria does He use? How His brethren were treated. Who are Jesus’ brethren? He said “For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:50). In addition, when Saul was murdering Christians for sport (Acts 9:1), Jesus appeared to him and said “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4) Clearly, Jesus’ brethren are Christians, and He doesn’t take kindly to their mistreatment.