The Blessings of Persecution

Posted on June 11, 2021

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By David Ettinger

Real Persecution
As a longtime reader of martyr literature, I know what real Christian persecution is. I have never experienced it, but I certainly recognize what it involves.

Real Christian persecution involves being beaten for your fidelity to Christ. Real Christian persecution involves having your house burned down. Real Christian persecution involves being hauled into the police station at 1 in the morning and undergoing questioning for hours on end. Real Christian persecution involves being jailed for no legitimate reason and kept from your loved ones for days, weeks, months, and even years. Real Christian persecution involves being murdered for your faith.

Such persecution occurs daily in countries such as North Korea, China, India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Eritrea, Yemen, Sudan, and numerous others.

Western Persecution
In Western nations, Christianity is under attack, but not through the same violent means. In the U.S., Christians are free to worship openly, but our beliefs are being ever more maligned. For instance, a school teacher in Virginia was fired for not adhering to his school board’s mandates to acknowledge the gender preferences of his students. Elsewhere, florists and bakers have been sued and heavily penalized for refusing to provide services for same-sex weddings.

In Canada, Australia, and England, biblical teaching on homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, and calling certain actions “sin” has been labeled as “hate speech,” some of which result in legal consequences such as fines and incarceration. This will continue.

Do these Western assaults on Christian beliefs constitute “persecution” as does the terrible treatment of non-Western Christians? No, but what we experience in the West compared to what those outside the West experience has something in common: hatred.

Christianity is hated. Jesus Christ is hated. God is hated. The Bible is hated. If you are surprised by this, you are not reading your Bible. After all, it was Jesus himself who said: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).  

Don’t miss that last pronouncement, “because of this [believing in Jesus] the world hates you.” The Lord didn’t say that the world may hate you, but that it does hate you. It’s a done deal, a reality. This does not mean every unbeliever in the world despises you, but that as a principle, the world in general hates everything you stand for.

How to Respond
In light of this, how should Christians respond? Should we engage in political bickering, conspiracy theories, and attacking those who don’t see things our way? Here in the States, that seems to be the go-to response. Sadly, however, this is a far cry from what our Lord teaches.

Jesus says: “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in this same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).

Several verses down, Jesus commands: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may prove yourselves to be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45).

These texts do not require deep study or examination. What they do require is contemplation, humility, and obedience. Christians are to consider such attacks upon our freedoms – and our bodies, should that arise – as blessings. And when these things occur, we are to love those who afflict us. Is this difficult to do? You bet it is! However, it is what Jesus expects of us.

If someone attacks you for your faith, don’t pray for God to destroy them; pray for their souls. The next time a politician demeans God, the Bible, or Christianity, pray for them to come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus. The end result is that “you may prove yourselves to be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”

If persecution confirms that I am a true son of my Heavenly Father, how blessed I am! I don’t seek persecution, but if it leads to blessing, then may God have is will in my life, wherever that may lead!