Question: "Is it wrong to be a Christian secretly in order to preserve your own life?"
Answer: Is it wrong to live lives as secret Christians for fear of reprisal or even death? Should Christians be willing to die for confessing the name of Jesus? Should we keep our faith secret in order to preserve our lives? This is a question that is only hypothetical for Christians in many parts of the world, with the worst persecution they could receive being ridicule and/or insults. However, for Christians in some parts of the world, this question is very real and practical—their lives literally are at risk. It is one thing to not be as bold as you would like in order to protect your own life and/or the lives of your family. It is another thing entirely to make your own life a higher priority than serving, honoring, worshipping, and obeying Christ. So, with that said, is it wrong to keep your faith in Christ a secret?
Jesus Himself gives us the answer: "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:32-34). Christ made it clear to us that “if the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). So, while it is understandable for someone to keep his/her faith in Christ a secret in order to save his/her life, for a Christian, a secret faith is simply not an option.
In the passage above, the word “world” comes from the Greek kosmos. It refers to an evil, fallen world system of godless, immoral people whose hearts and minds are controlled by Satan (John 14:30; 1 John 5:19; Ephesians 2:1-3). Satan hates God. He also hates those who follow Christ. Christians are the focal point of Satan's wrath. His goal is to “devour” them (1 Peter 5:8; Ephesians 6:11). We should not be surprised that the world’s rulers hate believers simply because we “are not of the world.” The reason why Christians are being persecuted and killed daily for their confession of Christ is that our godly lives serve to condemn this world’s wicked deeds (Proverbs 29:27). It has been this way from the beginning of time with the first murder ever recorded when Cain killed Abel (Genesis 4:1-8). Why did Cain do this? “Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous” (1 John 3:12). Correspondingly, the world today cheers those who practice evil (Romans 1:32) and condemns those who would live righteously.
Another message that Jesus brought to the world: “They [the world] will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake” (Matthew 24:9). Jesus has promised us this: at the end times Christians will suffer severe persecution by this ungodly world. We will be profaned, abused, and cursed. The phrase “will deliver” comes from the Greek word meaning “giving over,” as in the sense of being arrested by the police or military (Matthew 4:12). Many will be murdered. We will be “hated by all nations” for His name’s sake. In the parallel passage of Mark, Jesus declares, “But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them” (Mark 13:9). As we are witnessing today throughout the world, being identified with the name of Christ will cost us our freedoms, our rights, our respect, and sometimes our lives.
Christians have a mandate from Christ to “go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Paul echoes Christ’s directive with this query: “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!’” (Romans 10:14-15). In order for the gospel to be proclaimed, even in the darkest corners of the earth, someone must do the proclaiming. Our purpose on earth is to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth, telling others the life-saving news of Jesus Christ. Yes, sometimes we risk persecution in doing so, and sometimes we risk our own lives. But we know it is God’s will that we share His truth with others, and we also know He is powerful enough to protect us until our mission on earth is completed.
Living for Christ in this world can be difficult, even brutal. This world is not our home. The world is a battlefield. The trials of life are the tools God uses for building us up and making us more like Jesus. It is in those dark times that we look to Christ and let His power work within us. Just before His ascension into heaven, Jesus gave us His final command to spread the gospel to the world. With that He also gave us His final promise. “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). And that is all that matters.