The persecution of Christians is often a topic many prefer to avoid but it is a reality. Throughout the New Testament, we read that the world hates Christians and that they will be persecuted. Here are a few of the verses:
- Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
- Mark 10:29-30, “Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.”
- Luke 6:22, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!”
- John 15:20, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.”
- Acts 14:22, “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”
- Romans 8:35, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?”
- Romans 12:14, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.”
- 2 Corinthians 12:10, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
- 2 Timothy 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
In an article called “The Promise of Persecution,” Greg Laurie mentioned that the period in church history from A.D. 100 to A.D. 314 was known as the Martyr Period, when literally thousands of Christians sealed their fate with their blood for their believes. According to secular historians, there have been 10 great persecutions against the church. These were all major attempts to wipe out Christianity from the face of the earth, starting with the wicked Caesar Nero and ending with Diocletian. Believers were fed alive to wild animals. They were taken to Roman arenas for sport. They were torn apart, tortured, and burned at the stake.
But persecution is not a thing of the past. As a matter of fact, as we approach the soon return of Christ, the persecution of Christians in different parts of the world is reaching “genocidal” levels, according to a new report commissioned by the British government in December 2018. In terms of an interim report issued by an Independent Review set up at the request of the UK foreign secretary, are overwhelmingly the most targeted religious group in the world, and “acts of violence and other intimidation against Christians are becoming more widespread.” In some regions, the level and nature of persecution is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide, according to that adopted by the UN. Christianity is now facing “the possibility of being wiped out in parts of the Middle East where its roots go back furthest. As an example, in Iraq, Christian numbers have slumped from 1.5 million before 2003 to below 120,000 today. In Syria the Christian population has declined from 1.7 million in 2011 to below 450,000. The report notes that violent persecution exists “in many forms,” and can include both state and non-state actors. In an article published by CBS News on 3 May 2019, 80 percent of religious believers who are being persecuted around the world are Christians.
Even in the western world we see how the removal of crosses and the destruction of Church buildings and other Church symbols are on the increase. The 116th class of US Congress is one of the most diverse to serve the United States and the Bible is no longer the only religious book in use to swear in officials – the Quran now enjoys equal status. FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor asserted in an op-ed written for the Tribune News Service that the officially sanctioned National Day of Prayer — observed on May 2 this year — “goes against the spirit of the secular Constitution.” Prayers and Biblical teachings have basically been removed from all schools and universities. Christian businesses are often being forced to provide services that go against their religion, like baking wedding cakes for homosexual couples, while some churches are summoned to marry such couples. We also see attacks and discrimination increasing against Christians on social media. These are but only a few examples.
The Easter Sunday massacres in Sri Lanka (the third Easter in a row that has been targeted by radical Islamists) during which 359 Christians died, should still be fresh in our minds. These horrendous murders made the press for a day or two, while the world generally cared more about the fire in the famous Catholic Notre Dame cathedral than it does about those people who have their bodies blown to bits in architecturally less significant places of worship. Terrible massacres on Christians in Africa hardly enjoyed any news coverage, while the entire world mourned when 50 Muslims were gunned down in New Zealand in March 2019.
BUT WHY ARE CHRISTIANS BEING PERSECUTED?
In John 15:18 Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” As Christians, we are not like the world—vain, earthly, sensual, and given to pleasure, wealth, and ambition— and the world therefore opposes and hates us. Christian morals also stand in the way of globalism, socialism and for the Antichrist to be revealed.
Jesus also said, ” ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Peter says of Jesus, “When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). In Matthew 5:10-12 we also read, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
The persecution of Christians allows them to share in a unique fellowship with the Lord. Paul serves as an excellent example. James argues that trials test the Christian’s faith, develop endurance in his life, and help develop maturity (James 1:2–4). It strengthens the character of believers and enables them to better value the support of true brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. Hardship can stimulate the Lord’s people toward a greater resolve to love and comfort one another and lift one another to the throne of grace in prayer.
Even in the face of Christian persecution, we can press on and during such times, we are in constant communication with God through prayers.
Also, instead of growing weaker during these times of persecution, the body of Christ (real believers) actually grows stronger. Persecution separates the real from the false. If you are a true follower of Jesus, then you won’t back down if persecution comes your way. If God allows persecution in your life, then He will give you the strength to face it.
Sometimes we whine about how hard it is to be a Christian, even when experiencing the smallest bit of tests, trials and tribulations in our lives. Maybe we need to stop for a moment and consider our experience in comparison to that of Christians in countries such as India and in the Middle East.
We should prepare ourselves as I do believe that persecution will intensify as we get closer to the Lord’s return.