Of all of the different types of adversity we face as Christians persecution is perhaps the most difficult to understand. Other types of adversity described in the Bible involve hardship and can involve physical pain, but persecution is unique. Its sole focus is to inflict suffering, injury or death on another because of their faith.
A tension we have as Christians arises when we try to reconcile persecution with what we know about God. As we grow in our faith we have confidence in God’s love for us. We trust in His sovereign control and in His eternal protection of us as His children. Yet those truths do not make any of us immune from persecution.
Anyone who does a quick search of persecution in the Bible will quickly discover that it first happens shortly after the fall and is scattered throughout the pages of Scripture. There are four different kinds of persecution described in the Bible.
4 Kinds of Persecution Described in the Bible
- Physical. including torture and death Genesis 4:4-10; Acts 5:28, 40
- Social. making people social outcasts because of their faith John 9:18-23; 2Peter 2:7
- Mental. anguish from being inflicted with physical and emotional pain Job 19:22
- Spiritual. this can occur regardless of external circumstances 1 Peter 5:8-10
The great faith chapter is filled with heroes who had faith through persecution. Hebrews 11:4-40
When one experiences persecution the question “Why?” comes to mind. There is no easy answer but it certainly is because of our fallen state. Persecution of the godly is because of the sinfulness of those who reject both person and the message of God’s truth. Romans 3:10-18
For many who read this in western countries this is not a day to day issue for us. But it is for many brothers and sisters around the world. Lest we think that persecution was primarily something that happened to the early church and has become less of an issue since then, here are a couple of statistics. More Christians died because of their faith in Christ in the 19th century than all other previous centuries. According to the International Bulletin of Missionary Research approximately 100,000 Christians have been martyred every year this century.
A difficult but necessary thing we must do is live out how the Scriptures teach us to react to persecution.
8 Biblical Responses to Persecution
- Don’t be surprised by persecution. John 15:18-19; 2Timothy 3:12
- Love our enemies Luke 6:35
- Pray for those who persecute you Matt 5:44
- Bless those who persecute you. Matthew 5:10-12; Romans 12:14; 1Cor. 4:12-13
- Show mercy to those who persecute you. Romans 12:20
- Forbear, put up with it. Matt 5:38-42
- Never avenge yourself, confidently leave that to God Romans 12:19
- Follow the example of Jesus 1 Peter 2:21-23
If you are persecuted because of your faith, it is appropriate to cry out to God for help! Psalm 121. If you are not right now, please stop and pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering today for Jesus.
What has God taught you about persecution? How have you dealt with it? Please leave a comment or question below.