Summary: There are severe forms of persecution, and less severe; but there is no such thing as a non-persecuted Christian!
Jesus promised his disciples the night before he was crucified that their lot was to be no different than His. Jesus said: “No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also!”
Persecution Is on the Rise
The Pew Research Institute reported that nearly 73% of the world’s population lives in areas where their religious liberties are restricted.1 Six hundred million people on this planet are experiencing the severest forms of persecution. Most of them are Christians. The definition of that persecution includes physical mayhem, beatings, rapes, killings, and prolonged detentions without cause – all for simply exercising a universal right to believe and to worship as one sees fit.”2 And it’s getting worse, not better!
The least we can do – which is the most we can do – is pray for them. This Sunday is dedicated to that cause.
Members of the Body of Christ = Members of the Persecuted Church
The Apostle Paul says in that well-known verse to Timothy, “All who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2Tim 3:12) You might say, “Well, I’m not suffering like a Chinese evangelist in jail,” or “I can’t compare myself to a Colombian pastor fighting to stop the bandits taking the young people, making the boys “child soldiers. and girls sex slaves for guerilla fighters.” True, but the degree of severity is the only difference.
There are severe forms of persecution, and less severe; but there is no such thing as a non-persecuted Christian! It’s absolutely vital we remember this. Persecution has become limited in our minds to extreme violence, or something that the state does to others. But the biblical understanding is much broader.
There are four broad types of persecution mentioned by Jesus in his teachings. In Luke 6:22 Jesus proclaims: “Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man.”
There are four distinct verbs used here by Jesus to define persecution:
Every Christian should be able to identify a situation in which he or she experienced at least one of these – even here in the so-called Free world. It is persecution, however, only when suffered for the cause of Christ – not for our own foibles and personality.
There are also five sources of persecution mentioned and illustrated in the New Testament:
1. Priests (see Acts 7:54-59, the deacon Stephen is stoned by Jewish religious extremists
2. Rulers (see Acts 12:2 Herod Agrippa kills James)
3. Merchants (see Acts 19 when the leader of the silversmiths in Ephesus drives Paul out of the city)
4. Mobs (Acts 17:5)
5. Families (see Mt 10:35-36, “I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and…one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.”)