Persecution

 

 

 

 

Believers are persecuted everywhere

 

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the One on whom we have believed and the One we follow, said very clearly and in various ways that His followers will be persecuted. Pay attention to this, He did not say that they may be persecuted but He said that they will certainly be persecuted. Here are some of His words concerning persecution: “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12), and: ”If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me ….. These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.” (John 15:18-21; 16:1-3); “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. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist. And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake. But there shall not an hair of your head perish. In your patience possess ye your souls” (Luke 21:12-19).

The apostle Paul confirmed that we Christians were called to be persecuted for Christ’s sake. For he said to the Thessalonians that we were destined for afflictions (1 Thessalonians 3:3), and to Timothy: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

 

 

Biblical examples of believers who suffered for Christ’s sake

 

The apostle Paul suffered many afflictions for Christ’s sake. Here are some of his words concerning his afflictions: “Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness” (2 Corinthians 11:24-27); “For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day” (1 Corinthians 4:9-13).

The saints who were at Jerusalem (Acts 8:1-3), those who were at Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 2:14), those who were at Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11), and those who were at Pergamos (Revelation 2:13), suffered many things for the Lord’s sake. Stephen was stoned to death by the Jews (Acts 7:54-60); James the brother of John was put to death by Herod (Acts 12:1-2), Antipas was slain for Christ’s sake (Revelation 2:13). The apostle John in the vision he received on the isle of Patmos, saw under the altar in heaven the souls of them that were killed for the Word of God and for the testimony which they held (Revelation 6:9-11).

True Christians have always been persecuted. Sometimes persecution will be great, some other times not great, but there will be always a persecution against Christians. For instance, nowadays here in Italy the persecution against the saints is no longer as the persecution which the saints suffered under the Fascist Regime, or the persecution the saints suffered centuries ago at the hands of the Roman Inquisition, yet there is always some kind of persecution against the saints. We are mocked, reviled, slandered, and wronged because of our faith in Christ. Instead, in other countries, particularly in those countries where Muslims are the majority of the population and where the Muslim government is fundamentalist, the persecution against the saints is very furious, and produces many grieves and afflictions, and causes even the death of many brothers and sisters.

 

 

Why Christians are hated and persecuted

 

The world hated Jesus Christ because He was the Light of the world and He testified of it that its works were evil (John 7:7). Now, since we also are the Light of the world according to the words of Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:14) and the world in which we live is the same world of the days of Jesus, in that we live among a crooked and perverse generation who walk in darkness, and we too testify of the world that its works are evil, it follows that those who belong to the world hate us, who are the children of light. You see, those who do evil hate the light, lest their deeds should be exposed (John 3:20), that’s why the world hates us. We are no longer of this world, that is, we do not belong any longer to this adulterous and sinful generation, for we are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people (1 Peter 2:9), having been called out of the present evil world, out of darkness (which envelops the present world) into the marvellous light of God. This is why the world doesn’t love us, because it loves only its own and we are no longer of the world. Do you remember when you were a child of disobedience and followed sin and vanity how the world exalted and loved you? Do you remember how many friends you had? Do you remember the compliments and the sweet words of your friends? That was because you belonged to this evil world. But do you remember how the same people, after you passed from darkness into light, from lie into truth, and from a vain life into a real life, that is to say, when you turned from sin to Jesus Christ, they began to mock you, to hate you and persecute you? Why did this happen? Because you were delivered from this evil world and thus you thought no longer evil thoughts, you had no longer vain purposes and evil desires, nor bad words on your lips. Your former friends would have liked you to keep serving sin and walking in darkness!!!

This crooked and perverse generation loves evil and perverse things, those things we too loved when we were under the power of darkness. But thanks be to God, who delivered us from the power of darkness, and now we love only good and right things. We want to please God, and so we do not walk any longer after the flesh but after the Spirit. And the world hates us for we walk in the way of righteousness and holiness, for we follow the One who said He is THE WAY.

Another thing, those who believe in false gods, in false messiahs, in false doctrines, those who believe in all kinds of lies, and do all sort of evil and abominable things hate and persecute us sons of God for the devil, who is their master and father, prompts them to fight against us. And the devil is a very wicked spiritual being, who hates God and takes delight in doing evil things; he is that spirit who works in the children of disobedience. So the children of this age hate you because behind them there is the devil, who works in them that they may treat you badly. They have the mind of the devil, while we have the mind of Christ; they are under the power of the devil, while we are under the power of Christ; they are blinded by the god of this world, while we are enlightened by the true God. What a difference!! Don’t be surprised therefore if the world hates you.

 

 

Some words of encouragement

 

Brothers in the Lord, in the midst of the persecutions you suffer for Christ’s sake stand fast in the faith, do not deny the Lord, knowing that - as Jesus said – “by standing firm you will save yourselves” (Luke 21:19 - NIV). Remember these words of Paul: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18), and also these: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). All these words comfort us greatly for they make it clear that our sufferings will ultimately be followed by eternal glory. Of course, these afflictions make us suffer in various ways, but it is a right thing that we suffer, for Jesus Christ suffered for us. Why shouldn’t we suffer for Christ’s sake? Furthermore, sufferings work together for our good because they produce patience (Romans 5:3) and patience has its perfect work that we may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:2-4). Therefore, we should not murmur against God while we are afflicted, but rather we should pray and commit our soul to our faithful Creator and continue to do good (James 5:13; 1 Peter 4:19).

Do not lose heart, don’t think that something strange is happening to you, rather think that the persecution your are enduring for Christ’s sake is a right and useful thing. Rejoice that you are counted worthy to suffer shame and to be persecuted for Jesus’ name.

 

Giacinto Butindaro

 

 

 

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