All children of God would suffer persecution.
Text: Mark 13:9-13, John 15:18-25, Acts 8:1-3
The Lord Jesus Christ forewarned His disciples that since the world of His days did not love Him; did not know or accept Him, they would not love, accept or even know them. It is common to have falsehood contend with genuine. In the same way, darkness contends with light, although it cannot overpower it (John 1:4-5).
In the history of Christianity, God’s children have experienced severe persecutions in the hands of kings and kingdoms, politicians, religious organizations, even Christian professors! In our days in this part of the world, anyone who would like a godly life would be persecuted in different forms (2 Timothy 3:12). Moreover, the bible warns against suffering for evil doing. The child of God should be fully convinced and aware that he is living in a place where his life pattern is not accepted in totality. In all he does, he should avoid falling into error. And we should differentiate between suffering as a result of our errors and suffering as a result of following the Lord (1 Peter 3:17, 4:15-16).
There is a class of people in the church that do not look different, live different or even talk different from the rest of the world. These people embrace worldly slangs, dressings; they love vanity and they do not mind holy things. This class of people, though live all their lives in the church, they may never experience persecution because they are not different.
Persecution is for the different; the obviously different, like the Lord Jesus Christ was. Persecution is for those that the world hates because they hate the ways of the world. These are persecuted so as to divert, dissuade and prevent them from following the Way in which they walk.
The objectives of this study are:
- To know what persecution means
- To know why Christians are persecuted
- To know the Lord’s mind about persecution
- To know how to handle persecution
Q1. WHAT IS PERSECUTION?
To persecute generally means to harass with cruel or oppressive treatment, especially because of race, religion or opinions. Persistent annoyance or harassment is persecution. This could take any form; verbal or physical attack, or a combination of these. It ranges from severe scolding and/or threatening to deprivation (of food, drinks, shelter, promotion, etc.), neglect, scorn, to public beatings and even killing.
Persons who profess Christianity but do not live the life of Christ are not usually persecuted. The would accepts its own (John 15:18-21). If we are rebuked for wrongdoing, this is not persecution. It is instructive to avoid suffering for wrong. If we do right and we suffer for it, then we are persecuted, and the Lord’s name is glorified. When men revile us and call us names because we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior; it is persecution.
Q2. WHY ARE CHRISTIANS PERSECUTED?
Christians are persecuted because they are a different people. They are not of this world. They belong to Jesus Christ, the rejected, crucified, buried but risen and ascended Master of the Christian faith. He is ascended to heaven but He would come again, just like He said He would. All His followers live for Him, and the world does not like it! They did not like Him either, and before He left, He forewarned that His followers would be hated likewise (John 16:33; 1 John 3:1). The world persecutes Christians because they hate Christ and His followers in reality even when they say something else.
They persecute Christians because they remind them of God! Christians are a testimony that Jesus Christ is alive and Lord over the Universe. They are a proof that sin is evil and has been overcome at the cross. These are judgement to the world and their system. So, they make effort to overshadow them and put out their light if possible (John 16:8-11; Matthew 5:14-16). Christians are light in this dark world. The world loves darkness because their deeds are evil. They hate light bearers and the light they bear (John 3:19-21).
Q3. WHAT IS THE LORD’S MIND ABOUT PERSECUTION?
John 16:13, 2 Timothy 3:10-12, 1 Corinthians 4:12, 2 Corinthians 4:9.
Everyone who would live for the Lord would be persecuted. But the Lord’s expectation is for us to endure persecutions. He expects us to draw strength from Him and endure whatever hardship befalls u as we follow where He leads. He is our strength. It is on record that He is ever with His children in times of temptations and persecutions. He was with Daniel in the lions’ den, and with the Hebrew children in the furnace of fire (Daniel 3:13-26, 6:16-23). He was with the children of Israel in Egypt (Exodus 1:15-19). The Lord was with the early disciples. The book of Acts bears testimony richly to this.
The Lord expects us to rejoice when we are persecuted (Matthew 5:11-12). It is honor to suffer for the name of Christ! It should make us rejoice and praise the name of the Lord that we are counted worthy to bear on our bodies the marks of the glorious King (Romans 8:17,18).
Finally, the Lord wants us to bless those that persecute us (Romans 12:14). The way to overcome evil is by doing good. This is the mind of Christ for us, that no evil communication proceeds out of our mouths even when in serious pains of hardship, rather blessing, praises and words that edify (1 Thessalonians 5:15, 1 Peter 3:9-18).
Q4. HOW SHOULD WE HANDLE PERSECUTION?
Romans 8:37, 1 John 4:4
The first thing to do about persecution is to stand! (Mark 13:13). Stand firm to the end, but not as much as you can but to the end. The only way to be saved is to stand to the end. Giving up is like never starting. Another way to face persecution is taught by the Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 10:23. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another: There is always the option of fleeing. What is a never an option is fighting back! Sometimes, we do not flee because we do not trust God enough to care for us. At other times we are ignorant of methods of suffering for the Lord’s sake. Fleeing is an available option richly explored by the disciples in the “Acts of the Apostles”.
Whatever persecution we may face, let us remember that suffering does not separate us from Christ but actually carries us toward our ultimate goal (Romans 8:35-39). Psalm 44:22 shows that it is a normal thing for God’s people to suffer persecution, and they endure.
Yet another way to handle persecution is to learn to bless. Sincerely bless people that hate and persecute you even when they curse and embarrass you. Make effort not to curse your persecutors (see 1 Corinthians 4:12-13, Matthew 5:11,12).
Daily Living Application
Two major kinds of problems exist on the issue of persecution. When is a Christian persecuted for righteousness and when is he beaten for his wrong? When a Christian is persecuted for living in obedience to the will of the Lord Jesus and he bears it, then he is suffering for righteousness sake. One the other hand, suppose a Christian falls into sin and all his companions make jest of him, he loses the job, and friends and other people ridicule him saying, “And you call yourself a Christian…” Is this suffering for Christ? First, he has brought shame to the household of God by committing sin (whatever sin it might have been!). He is being ridiculed because he sinned even though this does not excuse those ridiculing him. However, a person whose sins are forgiven by the Lord may also be ridiculed in like manner. This is because the people do not understand the mechanism of God’s forgiveness. While we may not be able to get all the situations clear on this one study, it is right to state clearly that every child of God can and should avoid ugly incidences of “sin and repentance” that leaves us being ridiculed by sinners! Our God is abundant in mercy to forgive but let us remember not to take His love for granted (see Hebrews 12:29, 1 John 3:1-6, Ephesians 2:4, Psalm 100:5, 1 Chronicles 16:34, Romans 9:15).
The other issue is, why are some “Christians” not persecuted? What, in practice makes people who profess Christianity escape being persecuted? Is it normal? Some Christians are not persecuted because they do not live a challenging life style; they mix freely and well into the world. This is abnormal!
“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake”.