In his Christian classic, Born Crucified, L. E. Maxwell writes these wise words:
“One of the most searching and condemning sentences which ever fell from the Savior’s lips was that uttered to his own unbelieving brethren: 'The world cannot hate you' (John 7:7). If ever I become so one with the world, so tolerant of its spirit and atmosphere that I reprove it no more, incur not its hatred, rouse not its enmity to Christ—if the world can find in me no cause to hate me and cast me from its company, then I have betrayed Christ and crucified Him afresh in the house of His friends. On intimate terms with this world that nailed [Christ] to the tree? Perish the thought. Mark well O popular Christian and worldly-wise preacher, venturing how far you must go with the world in order to win the world: never had the church so much influence over the world as when she had nothing to do with the world.”
As proof of Maxwell’s protestation, consider the fact that Edward Gibbon, in his classic work, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, contributed, at least in part, the fall of Rome to the rise of Christianity. Much to the chagrin of the Roman Emperors, their pitiless persecution of the church failed to stamp out Christianity. Instead, it helped to spread it throughout the Roman Empire.
An early Christian apologist excitingly exclaimed Christianity’s unexpected expansion throughout the Roman Empire, despite Rome's dedication to the extinction of Christians and to the eradication of the Christian church.
“We are everywhere. We are in your towns and in your cities; we are in your country; we are in your army and navy; we are in your palaces; we are in the senate; we are more numerous than anyone.”
Truly, as the early Church Father Tertullian famously said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Far from leading to the church’s postmortem, as its opponents always plan and propose, persecution often leads to the purging, purifying, and propagation of the church. It separates the wheat from the tares, puts faith to the test, and makes us living proof of what we preach. Therefore, worldly persecution may be less imperiling to Christianity than worldly popularity.