Blessed are those who are persecuted
Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.
Luke 6:22 | NIV
How Common is the Persecution of Christians?
The persecution of Christians is much more common than we think. In recent news, not covered by Mainstream Media, hundreds of Christians are being arrested, tortured and murdered just because they follow Christ and refuse to deny him. Now, it’s not happening in the Americas (North, Central and South America) – yet – but it will.
The pressure is on. Christian persecution is on the rise. The more Christians stand up, and stand firm, on the truths of the Bible the more we will be ridiculed and rejected.
For decades, there hasn’t been a line drawn in the sand. Western Mainstream Christianity has become watered down to attending weekly services and supporting overseas missionaries. The overwhelming majority is just fine with the status quo, living comfortably and virtually unchallenged in their “faith”. And when they do get mocked for living by biblical standards they’re easily intimidated and cringe under pressure.
On the other hand, we have come together in support of businesses like Chick-Fil-A and Hobby Lobby who have been making news because of their conservative stances. We have also championed Christian reality TV stars and bakery owners in their struggle to maintain their reputations as principled and moralistic evangelicals.
It’s obvious to everyone that those mentioned above have been targeted specifically because their “religious beliefs” go against the progressive culture we live in. Laws are rapidly being passed that fly in the face of biblical Christian values.
In some Christian circles believers are told to not ruffle any feathers by being outspoken about what the Bible says regarding topics like abortion, fornication, fraud, modesty, homosexuality, among others. We’re told not to “judge”, so we back off and keep silent even as our fellow believers fall into these sins.
“Too many Christians have a commitment of convenience. They’ll stay faithful as long as it’s safe and doesn’t involve risk, rejection or criticism. Instead of standing alone in the face of challenge or temptation, they check to see which way their friends are going.” Charles Stanley
It’s easier to go where everyone else is going – harder to go against the flow. But, in my experience, the closer we draw to God the more we’ll want to live as Christ lived on the earth: boldly, radically and wholeheartedly proclaiming the will of God.
Related: Are You a Christian…Or a Disciple?
What is Persecution?
By definition, persecution means “the act of harassing, oppressing, or killing people because of their difference from society. Christians are persecuted because their belief in Jesus Christ as Savior does not conform to the godlessness of a sinful world”. – Thoughtco.com
In our western culture it is rare to hear of persecution in the form of the oppression or murder of followers of Christ, but harassment is becoming more and more prevalent. High school teenagers and university students can be brutal in their treatment of Christians by their name-calling, cruel jokes and marginalizing.
Believers in the workplace face ridicule because of their bold stance on integrity and honesty, while Christians in the entertainment industry and political arena are despised for following their biblical moral compass.
But these are in the minority, not the majority.
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”
John 15:18-19 | NIV
What Should Our Attitude be Toward Persecution?
Our natural reaction to persecution is to be defensive, to protect ourselves and to say, “This is not fair!”. When we see it happening to other Christians we shout, “Hate Crime!” and our mindset becomes “us against them”.
But, while we are in “reaction mode” Christ gets pushed to the background. He is no longer magnified in our lives.
What should our attitude be toward persecution? Expect it. Welcome it. Because the Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:12, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
“What does a real disciple of Jesus Christ look like? He’s poor in spirit; he mourns over sin; he’s gentle; he hungers and thirsts for righteousness; he’s merciful; he’s pure in heart (in the sense he has no undivided loyalties); he is a peacemaker; and he is marked by persecution.” Paul Washer
Related: Can You Endure Until The End?
How Should Christians Handle Persecution?
We read in Isaiah 53 the haunting words, “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” And then read how he responded, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.”
Did Jesus, God incarnate, have the right to be angry at such treatment? Certainly! But because he had his Father’s divine purpose in mind he kept his mouth shut.
“When you are insulted, you must not only not resent it, but make it an occasion to exhibit the Son of God. You cannot imitate the disposition of Jesus; it is either there or it is not. To the saint personal insult becomes the occasion of revealing the incredible sweetness of the Lord Jesus.” – Oswald Chambers
Related: What on Earth is God Doing?
What Does the Bible Say About Persecution?
It totally goes against our human nature to stand silent in the face of cruel treatment because of our faith. However, if Christ’s nature is within us, we have all the courage and humility we need to back down. Here is a list of verses that should inspire us:
♥ Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, or theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:10 | NIV
♥ That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10 | NIV
♥ Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? Romans 8:35 | NIV
♥ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:44 | NIV
♥ Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Romans 12:14 | NIV
♥ “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.” Mark 10:29-30 | NIV
♥ Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Matthew 5:11 | NIV
Blessed are Those Who are Persecuted
How should we respond? By blessing those who curse us; by loving our enemies; by praying for those who persecute us. Why? Because it’s an honor to be counted with Christ, to identify with him in his suffering. Because we have absolutely nothing to lose. We can say with Paul, “For to me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) Because nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. And because we’re only passing through on this earth; this is not our home. We were never meant to be comfortable here.
“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
To be rejected – even hated – for being a Christian means that people can’t stand us for wanting to live a godly life. There is no compromise in us. We are not wishy-washy disciples. Christians who don’t experience this persecution do not desire to live a life pleasing to God. And if that is the case, it is necessary to reflect on these words:
“But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in him. This is how we know that we are in him: whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did. (1 John 2:5-6)
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5)
What are you willing to endure for Christ’s sake? If you cherish your life above that of the glory of God, you need to question whether or not you are in the faith. John 12:25 tells us, “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life”.
“Hate”? Really? Yes. Versebyversecommentary.com describes perfectly what this means:
“Hating life in this context means being willing to forfeit personal purposes for God’s eternal plan for us. Hating life in this world means that we must go through spiritual death to temporal values. One hating “his life” cares more for Christ than personal values.
“It is important to realize that the idea of hate here is a semantic hyperbole, an overly emphatic statement to make a strong point. The point is that we are to live with priorities that are not our own; we put priority on God’s primacies. This is to live life beyond self.”
“To be right with God has often meant to be in trouble with men.” A.W. Tozer
How much do you love your life? Are you willing to lay it all down? Is Christ worth it?
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
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