Sometimes we feel that we are on the receiving end of persecution when we feel that our freedom worship how we would like gets restricted in the US. Maybe when a kid is not allowed to talk about God in a high school speech or when a politician speaks overly-generalized spiritual talk to not offend anyone. Sometimes though I see a "woe is me" mentality about the persecution and it really makes me sad. I am not denying that persecution does exist in the US, but rather I wish to make two points:
1. Complaining about being on the receiving end of persecution is NOT Biblical.
2. Focusing solely on our persecution is doing a great disservice to our brothers and sisters around the world.
Time and time again, Jesus and the apostles tell believers to expect persecution and to even rejoice that we can suffer for God. They do not say to get nostalgic and wish for the "good ole days". They did not say to complain and bash the persecutors. But rather they said:
- Jesus tells us to except to receive family (a good thing) but also persecution!
- Jesus tells us (twice) there WILL be persecution in the last days but we will bear testimony to Jesus.
- Paul tells Timothy that there will be persecution & problems in the last days. 2 Timothy 3:12 "everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted". So expect persecution if you're following Jesus.
- Twice in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about persecution. We are to rejoice & be glad when we are persecuted, because we will be rewarded in heaven. We are to pray for those who persecute us that we may be God's children.
- Paul tells us to bless those who persecute us and not curse them.
- Paul tells us that not ever persecution can separate us from the love of God!!
- Paul tells us that while we're persecuted God does not abandon us.
- Paul delights in persecution & other hardship because Christ's power is shown in Paul's weakness.
- The writer of Hebrews reminds us to keep an eternal perspective. Early believers joyfully accepted the confiscation of their property because they remembered their eternal reward.
- Paul tells how they endure persecution, not complain against it.
- Jesus tells us in Matthew & Mark that some will leave the faith because of persecution. Pray that this doesn't happen. Pray for believers to get deep roots!!
- Paul boasts of the Thessalonians persevering through persecution. It encourages others.
- James tells us to consider trials pure joy because the testing of our faith produces perseverance.
- In Acts, the apostles left a flogging rejoicing that they could suffer for God's name. They viewed it as being worthy of suffering for Jesus' name.
A global perspective of persecution problems helps us not to become self-centered and only focus on our treatment. There is persecution all over the world. There is persecution that results in maiming and death. There is persecution where there is no legal protection offered to Christians in other countries. Instead of allowing the persecution in the States to turn you self-centeredly focusing on only the problems in the US, I challenge you to use the persecution that exists in the States to remind you to pray for your brothers and sisters around the world who are facing more persecution than you.
You may be asking yourself what you can do in the face of persecution. You can pray your way through the top 50 countries where persecution is the worst. (And no, the US doesn't even qualify in the top 50 countries with persecution). You can sign up for a newsletter on the persecuted church and pray for those in the newsletters who are suffering. (And yes, the US sometimes even makes it into the newsletter).
So my dear siblings in Christ, yes I acknowledge your persecution, but I challenge you to keep the perspective of the apostles while facing persecution, to pray for your persecutors, and to pray for other persecuted believers.
Liz o' the Niche