The Many Aspects of Persecution
A Biblical View
FROM the very beginning, God's people have been persecuted. Our Lord Jesus, speaking to the scribes and Pharisees, refers to this reality when He said to them,
"That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias . . ." Matthew 23:35
|God in His sovereignty can use persecution as a triumphant tool for the spread of the gospel.|
Persecution is to be expected by all true Christians. In the Gospel of Matthew our Lord prophesied it,
"And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake . . ." Matthew 10:22
The most aggressive forms of persecution are religious and/or political persecution. Jesus spoke about the severity of this persecution, saying:
"They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service." John 16:2 (It was for these very reasons the disciples forsook Jesus in Gethsemane and fled for their lives.)
Soon after our Lord’s resurrection, both the Sadducees and Pharisees became bitter persecutors of the Christians. And throughout history, from emperors such as Nero in Rome to Mao Zedong in China, ideologues have persecuted Christians.
Jesus also warns us that many will turn away when put under this pressure, thus making persecution a test of true discipleship:
". . . when they have heard the Word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the Word’s sake, immediately they are offended." Mark 4:16-17.
Persecution is also a means of blessing. Twice in the Beatitudes Jesus said,
"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:10
"Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake." Matthew 5:11
We also recall the story of Joseph, son of Jacob, who was persecuted by his own brothers. But Joseph remained true throughout many hardships and grew strong in the Lord. In the end he was able to say to his brothers,
"Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive." Genesis 50:19-20
God in His sovereignty can use persecution as a triumphant tool for the spread of the gospel. Paul encourages us with his words,
|... the utmost reason for persecution of true Christians is simply that the world does not know the only true God.|
"But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel." Philippians 1:12 (NKJ)
But the utmost reason for persecution of true Christians is simply that the world does not know the only true God.
This is why Christ said,
"If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. . . . but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. . . . If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; . . . But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me."John 15:18-21
Again, he emphasized this point,
"And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me." John 16:3
In today's world, persecution reveals itself in many ways. In western countries (so far) it is generally very subtle. Someone merely referring to "my Lord" may be accused of proselytizing or called a religious fanatic. In other areas of the world – especially the Majority World (the "developing countries"), persecution is overt and it is rampant.
Persecution is violent in places such as Orissa, a state in India where Christians have come under attack twice in the past nine months. Countries in Africa are facing the growth of radical Islam. And in China (regardless of what the authorities wish to portray), believers are still being beaten and imprisoned.
There are many more stories. But we at Christian Aid try to use discretion when choosing which stories or pictures to use, because some are so graphic.
Persecution is not something that is going to end – at least not until the number of martyrs "be fulfilled." (Revelation 6:11) Until that time, I encourage you to pray for and help provide for the needs of our fellow believers witnessing for our Lord Jesus in the midst of their struggles.