A colleague of mine who serves in an overseas country has told me many stories of Christians being persecuted in the 21st century. According to www.persecution.com, Christians around the globe are suffering for being followers of Jesus and practicing their faith. Following are brief excerpts from two stories currently posted:
1. Chinese authorities arrested more than 100 members of an unapproved Beijing church on Sunday, April 10, after they gathered for an outdoor worship service.
2. Zahra’s life was bleak. Her grandson had a terminal illness, and the secret police had killed her two daughters on the same night. Zahra’s daughters were university students. To cover up the crime, the secret police forced Zahra to claim it was an accident.
These cases are not isolated. Some African and Middle Eastern governments continue their campaigns against Christians, selling them into slavery or killing them. In many countries like India and Indonesia, Christians face violence from other religious groups. Even in the United States, followers of Christ can face adverse circumstances. Teenagers, college students, marketplace and military people I know describe isolation and ridicule from unbelieving friends or co-workers as ongoing hardships.
Read 2 Timothy 3:10-17. While persecution is motivated by evil, it is often allowed by God. The apostle Paul reminded Timothy that Christians who live a godly life should expect persecution from those who feel threatened by their Christ-like behavior. How we handle such push back is another way we can testify to our faith and trust in Jesus. Paul even instructed the Philippians (1:29) that they had been granted on behalf of Christ the gift or privilege of believing in Him and suffering for Him. Faith and suffering apparently are a blessing. The apostle Peter affirms this same idea in 1 Peter 4:12-19.
You and I may not face the same degree of suffering as many of our brothers and sisters around the world. Yet we often go to great lengths to avoid mistreatment or opposition by hiding our faith or by keeping silent when the topic is discussed.
The worst response to the fear of persecution is compromise. Are you afraid to talk about why you love Jesus because it might provoke a hostile response? Did you ever think that in many cases that might be a good idea? Or that it is supposed to happen? We are living in a hostile world that does not acknowledge God in positive terms and often hates those who do. When you refuse to compromise, the results may surprise you. Christians must expect troubles (1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:5), but recognize that even in difficult times, God’s Kingdom is advancing. In his second letter to the Corinthians, (4:17), Paul reminds them that, “experiencing the light and momentary troubles that achieve eternal glory far outweighs them all.” Our difficulties diminish in importance in the light of eternity.
When you face persecution, ask God for strength not to yield or compromise. Think about how you will respond differently the next time you confront such a situation in a class, a conversation, or back in your dorm. Grow devotionally. Use the web site mentioned above to pray for persecuted believers as a part of your weekly prayer time. How can you respond to the plight of persecuted churches and followers of Jesus?
Love is a verb,