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This post was written by Tee Akindele on April 18, 2010
Posted Under: Bible Study Articles,Everyday Christian

Christian Persecution: Biblical Perspectives for the 21st century mind [Part 1]

My country Nigeria is currently regarded by most of the western world as one of the places where Christians are being most violently persecuted. The more precise reports refer specifically to parts of Northern Nigeria, probably places like Jos, Bauchi, Kano, etc, where there have been recent reports of attacks and killings of Christian citizens for no cause other than their not being muslims. Yet, most people living in Southern Nigeria, where there is a Christian majority and ample religious freedom, so to speak, may still find it hard to accept such statistics. Most southerners would conveniently ignore these issues really.

Christian Persecution, however, is of a very broad scope. It is not merely about antagonism from people of other religions. People are being persecuted in diverse ways all around the globe; from diverse sources both inside and outside the Church; for various reasons, ranging from conversion to Christianity, to refusing to take a bribe; degrees varying from mild scorn, discrimination, deprivation, to denial of legal rights; and yes, even in the 21st century, hundreds or thousands of Christians are still being imprisoned, sentenced to death or ruthlessly murdered, for practicing what they believe, all over the world, daily.

In any case, I have come to learn that generally, for most modern day Christians, persecution is merely a historical or antiquated theological ideology, an awkward subject that hopefully the church has overgrown. We  do not actually have a proper understanding of what Christian persecution is all about; or of what our expectation, attitude and responses must be in the face of being confronted, harassed, or having to pay very dear and painful sacrifices for our beliefs and convictions; we barely have any sense of  identification with people suffering for their faith in Christ and for their passion to share the gospel. I hope I can show you just how tragic this is.

Are Christians to expect persecution?

The Christian people who had their villages and families massacred along with the aged and infants, by religious extremists (Hindus, Jihadists etc) in places like india, North Korea, China and Jos didn’t wish or ask for it. We do not pray for or expect persecution. we do not go about with the countenance of a persecution complex or expose ourselves to danger unnecessarily. But will persecution happen? God’s word is our best guide on that.

For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.
John 5:16(NKJV)

If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 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 keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.
John 15:18-21
(NKJV)

Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
2Tim 2:12
(NKJV).

See also Mark 10:29-30

I think Jesus made it clear to His disciples that being a believer goes with being persecuted, there is actually no exception to the rule. Christ himself was maligned and persecuted through out his ministry especially by religious people, the bible says that in His suffering He showed us an example to follow. At one point or the other we’ll all have to face being abused and looked down upon because of what we believe especially when we try to witness or share our faith with others, and when we stand for truth or against injustice and unrighteousness. Most times we’ll be confronted with whether to deny Christ or to bear reproach for His name.

The only conditions for not encountering any form of persecution in the Christian life, may include not taking a firm stand for righteousness, or never attemptimg to witness about Jesus. Unfortunately, many Christians are not taught this well enough. The doctrine of our identifying with the cross of Jesus in such a way is so unpopular, in place of it we have a parochial and watered down Superman theology that offers that the essence of Christ’s suffering is just so that we can become great, rich and famous in this life. This kind of religion will never pose an effective witness to the gospel in the face of opposition, such shallow belief system can’t hold the kind of  grace that cripples every storm of the Christian life.

What would God gain from Christians suffering for their faith? Doesn’t He care?

We only always make futile attempts trying to speak for God. Yet a logical explanation that comes to my mind is that, what better way could God show that He cared for us than by Christ coming to suffer persecution himself and die on the cross to save us, in the first place. Christ never leaves us to face persecution alone, when a Christian is persecuted, Christ also is persecuted. He said to Saul on the road to Damascus “I am Jesus, whom you have been persecuting”.

Secondly, no believer who dies in faith or for the sake of The Gospel can lose his/her life. The hope and promise that we have from God guarantees this. Whichever way a believer leaves this life (all mankind will leave one way or the other), He is grandly welcomed into God’s embrace where he/she finds eternal rest. “Precious in the sight of the LORD Is the death of His saints.” Psalm 116:15. We have a reward larger than this life that makes us gladly bear any cross of affliction or tribulation we have to bear to be identified with or to honor Jesus.

Another very strong point for being ready to suffer as a Christian if need be, witnessed by scripture, is the fact that every time our conviction is being challenged, gives us an opportunity to witness for the gospel to the unsaved, we rejoice in such an opportunity because of the possibility of it leading to the birth of another Christian and strengthening the faith of other believers. This glorifies God.

But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake. And it shall turn to you for a testimony.
Luke 21: 12

But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
Phil 1: 12-14
(The words of Apostle Paul while chained in prison)

Yes, God cares! For in all our persecution, He’ll never forsake us, He’ll be with us in the fiery furnace or the Lion’s den. And if to serve His eternal purpose, He’ll lead us through the valley of the shadow of death, whichever way, we need not fear evil.

We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed
2Cor 4:8-9

Persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra–what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me.
2Tim 3:11

This article is not concluded, please see: Christian Persecution: Biblical Perspectives for the 21st century mind [Part 2]. for the concluding part.

Reader Comments

There were more Christians martyred during the 20th Century (45 million) than the rest of the centuries preceding it.
With the current changes in world politics, the 21st Century will only bring more persecution.
Most Christians in developed Western countries believe that the worst period of persecution was in the first 3 centuries before Constantine. The Book “World Christian Trends AD 30-AD2200″ explodes this myth.
Tee lives in a country where there are more Christians than other religious groups including Muslims, yet we have witnessed more than 300 churches burned and Christians murdered because of their faith. His call is timely and his advice is sound.

#1 
Written By A. Hua on March 10th, 2012 @ 11:05 AM

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