Contributed by Julian Ramsey
Persecution permeates the Bible beginning with Cane and Able and fills the New Testament. It was predicted repeatedly by Christ, experienced in the fullest manner by our Savior, recorded in the early church by Acts, taught in the Epistles and predicted in Revelation. Because in the West we have not experienced it as much as in the Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Communist parts of the world. we tend not to think much about it. However, persecution continues. At present, I am reading Andrew Brunson’s God’s Hostage: A True Story of Persecution, Imprisonment, and Perseverance published in 2019 recording Brunson’s 735 days of imprisonment in Turkey. One difference between Brunson’s persecution and Christians in the majority of the world is the quantity of prayer, publicity and strong governments working for his release. At any time, there are many Iranian Christians in jail for their faith. Almost every week, Algerian churches are closing. China is removing crosses above churches and closing non-government churches as fast as it can. Muslim background believers in Christ are persecuted and sometimes killed by family members to remove shame from the family. Buddhists killed 259 Christians in Sri Lanka on Easter this year and since September have persecuted Christians three times from different churches.
At the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount Christ said “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” (Matthew 5:10-12 NIV).
From this, we learn that persecution is promised but brings a blessing and great eternal reward. We should not fear persecution but we should expect it, be braced for it and realize that in heaven our Lord has eternal reward. We stand on the shoulders of the prophets in the Old Testament. Hebrews says some of whom (many think it was Isaiah) were even sawn in two. Christ points out that some times the persecution comes through verbal insults and harassments.
We need to be braced for persecution and we need to ask what we can do to help those who are persecuted.