Persecution in Changing Times – Part 1
Sharing the Gospel is not always easy. Doing this online, where there is more of an opportunity for others to hide their identities and remain anonymous, means we are even more likely to see people respond inappropriately, receive criticism and experience spiritual warfare. Jesus told us to be prepared for many to reject the message and we see persecution for Christians growing around the world.
Culture is changing quickly with growing opposition to biblical morality and secular agendas gaining traction much faster than we realize. The rate of this change shows no signs of slowing and is likely to accelerate with younger generations more disconnected to God’s Word becoming the dominant demographic. These changes and the demonizing of biblical beliefs will only continue and intensify.
Scripture prepares us for this and includes some counterintuitive principles for living through these challenging times. These are outlined in a thoughtful and encouraging way in the book Prepare – Living Your Faith in an Increasingly Hostile Culture authored by Dr J. Paul Nyquist.
This worthwhile read includes 5 principles for looking at persecution:
- The persecution of believers is normal and not strange.
- Persecution means your blessed not cursed.
- Believers can expect to be exposed and not protected.
- God calls us to respond to our persecution with compassion rather than anger.
- We will be rewarded not forgotten.
We will look at the first of these principles this month and then spend the next couple months looking at the rest and the scripture that guides each.
We see throughout scripture that persecution of believers is normal and not unusual. Faithful saints before and after Christ saw hardship and death stemming from their beliefs. Jesus himself is our greatest example of this.
The Bible reminds us that the world hates us for being Christian. This is because we are different, we bear Christ’s name, and our beliefs expose their sin. Jesus makes this point clearly in John 15:18-27:
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’ “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.”
Find peace that none of this is catching God off guard and we are not alone in suffering. We have the ultimate example and source of strength in Jesus Christ.