by | Jun 29, 2023 | Forgiveness, Persecution, Perseverance, Relationship

Do we really even know what it is like to be persecuted?

Some of you might respond with “yes”. You feel like the pastor persecutes you for always approaching you to read scripture or pray at church. Or maybe someone purposefully takes your parking spot … or even your special seat at church. Or perhaps you are the first one to be called whenever there is need of a special meal. Why does it always have to be you? Why are you so persecuted? Aren’t there others in the congregation who could be “bothered” just as well as you?

So what should you do? Be less vocal in church? Maybe change your phone number and don’t give it to the pastor? Change churches?

Some of you, however, are shaking your heads in wonder in reading the above paragraphs. I mean, compared to what you are going through, can you really call … that … persecution? Some of you have been thrown out of your homes because you accepted Christ into your heart. Some of you risk being thrown in jail for sharing the gospel. Still others of you have been beaten for your faith.

It makes you think, doesn’t it? When you take all the little “irritations” in our church lives and compare them to those who are beaten, jailed, thrown out, even killed for their faith, it makes our church problems seem pretty trivial!

I was recently reading an Open Doors publication on the church in India, and I had to ask myself just how long many North Christians would “survive” that kind of persecution. In India, our brothers and sisters in Christ endure threats. They are attacked by radical Hindu mobs. They face false accusation. They are scrutinized by the police. Their attacks and arrests often result in evictions, loss of income and broken families. Their crops are burned, their livestock slaughtered. Is it worth it?

Of course, India isn’t the only country where there is significant and serious persecution of Christians. In fact, according to Open Doors ministries, over 360 million Christians live n places where they experience high levels of persecution. 5898 Christians were killed for their faith in 2021 alone. 5110 churches and other Christian buildings were attacked, and 4765 believers were detained without trial!

It makes our “why do I always get picked on to pray” seem pretty trite, doesn’t it?

So how do these persecuted Christians respond? Do they run and hide? Do they give up on Christ? Do they live their lives in such a way that people can’t tell they are Christians?

Not at all. So often these persecuted Christians cling to Christ and extend forgiveness to their attackers!

Why? Why would we threaten to change churches or phone numbers to avoid having to bake another cake, while those who are truly persecuted for their faith press in closer and forgive?

Because persecution does that to believers! Persecution brings believers to the point where they can truly follow the advice of James 1:2: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds…” (NIV). They know from personal experience that, “…the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:3-4 NIV). They have learned that persecution brings about blessing, for truly, the more we are persecuted, the more we will feel Christ’s presence! They can truly agree from first-hand experience with Jesus statement: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt. 5:10-12 NIV).

I once heard it said that the persecuted church prays that the western church will experience persecution so that they will wake up and shake off the apathy and complacency that has attached itself to much of Christiandom; and I feel there are many lessons we can learn from Christians who are persecuted for their faith. Here are just a few:

1. We can learn to forgive those who hurt us;

2. We can learn that the more trouble comes our way, the more we need to press into Jesus;

and 3. We can learn to not run away from persecution; but rather, to embrace it and let it draw us nearer to Him!

So what do we do with this?

Let’s stop calling a broken guitar string “persecution”! Let’s pray for our brothers and sisters in the persecuted church, and let’s strive to strengthen our personal walk with Christ. Remember: Just because you may not live where it is illegal to be a Christian doesn’t mean that you will always be exempt from being persecuted for your faith! Why not press in to Jesus now? Be in the habit of taking refuge in Him! It would go a long ways towards preparing you for what may lie ahead!

In His love,
Rob Chaffart
Director, Answers2Prayer Ministries