What is it we do as Christians that brings on persecution?
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matt 5:10
All who are God's children are destined to suffer, whether for righteousness or unrighteousness. If for righteousness, we will share in God's glory; if for unrighteousness we will face shame and dishonor. Suffering for righteousness was modeled for us by the New Testament Church, as well as by many believers throughout history. It was their obedience to God that brought them such great persecution. For the modern Christian, living in a nation where Christians endure little suffering, it is well worth examining the lives of New Testament believers, and matching our lives to theirs, to determine if our lives are in conformity to God's will. If our obedience to Christ is to bring us suffering, yet so little suffering comes our way, we must ask ourselves, "Are we properly obeying God?". The following review will be more than an ample tool in that study.
The New Testament Church and Christians throughout history modeled for us 15 types of obedience that brought them persecution and suffering:
1. Association with Jesus
a. Christ promised it - Matt. 5:11; 10:22; 24:9; Luke 6:22
b. Peter denied knowing Christ 3 times, because of the threat of arrest - Matt. 26:69-75
2. Persistent preaching
a.) Apostles refused to curtail evangelizing - Acts 5:28, 40
b.) Bibles must be smuggled into countries which prohibit spreading the gospel
c.) Christians in India, Greece, and various Muslim nations are arrested for violating anti-proselytizing laws
3. Illegal acts of love - (authorized by God, but "illegal" as determined by local authorities)
a. Christ healed on the Sabbath, violating local authorities' interpretation of the Law - Mark 3:2-6
b. Christ cleansed the Temple, driving out money changers and their animals with a whip, yet lacked civil authority to do it - Matt. 21:12; John 2:14-18
c. The underground railroad helped Blacks escape American slavery during the 1800's
d. Corrie ten Boom loved her Jewish neighbors as herself in hiding them from Nazi death camps, so was arrested and abused by Nazi's.
e. Up until 1991, Soviet believers were arrested for taking in the abandoned children of arrested Christians
f. In San Francisco, in 1990, Christians were arrested for feeding the poor on the streets, because they lacked Health Department clearance.
g. Many Christian parents have had their children taken from them in recent years, for keeping the biblical injunction to spank their children.
h. Christians are arrested for expressing love to their unborn neighbors by trying to prevent their murders by abortion.
4. Uncompromised worship
a. Daniel, as well as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, was arrested and subjected to capital punishment for ignoring civil law which required worship of idols - Daniel 3 & 4
b. Paul, after taking new Gentile believers with him into the temple, for purification rites, was accused unjustly of defiling the "Holy place" and was beaten - Acts 21:26-28
c. Numerous children, in recent years, have been expelled from public schools for praying and reading their Bible at school or on the bus.
5. Exposing sin by a confrontive call to repentance
a. John the Baptist rebuked Herod for his wickedness, resulting in execution - Lk 3:19-20
b. Christ called the Jewish leaders horrible, descriptive names in exposing their sins - Matt 23
6. Exposing sin by speaking the "Truth"
a. Paul presented the simple gospel message without intense confrontation, and evoked an outburst of rage from Festus - Acts 26:24
b. Stephen rebuked the Jews for hardening their hearts to God, & died for it - Acts 7:51-58
c. Paul commanded us to expose the "fruitless deeds of darkness" - Eph. 5:11
d. Christ explained that He was hated, because He exposed the world's evil - John 7:7; 3:20
e. Out of love for their unborn neighbors, pro-life Christians try to educate women contemplating abortions, about the viability of their child, but typically face hateful, unappreciative responses.
7. Exposing sin by the "light" of a holy life
a. Christ promised that we would be persecuted for our righteousness - Matt. 5:10
b. Peter promised that our good deeds would bring us suffering and abuse - 1 Pet.2:19; 4:3-5
c. Christ was hated for his kindness - Mark 3:2-6
d. Christ's purging the Temple of the money changers, exposed the hypocrisy of the Jews - Mt 21:12; John 2:14-18
8. Out-of-state (heavenly) citizenship labels us as "political dissidents."
a. Christ was accused of trying to establish Himself as king of an earthly kingdom which threatened the Roman Empire - Luke 23:2; John 19:15
b. Apostles suffered because they claimed allegiance to the King of Heaven - Acts 17:5-8
c. First Century believers were killed by Nero, because they refused to profess, "Caesar is Lord."
d. Christians in Germany were persecuted by Hitler, because their devotion to Christ exceeded their loyalty to the Nazi government
e. Pastor Richard Wurmbrand was imprisoned for 14 years in Romania as a political prisoner, because he exposed communism as false teaching and incompatible with biblical Christianity.
9. Provoking others to jealousy
a. The chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus, as well as Jesus, when his return from the dead led to the conversion of so many Jews. John 12:10-11
b. Pharisees were jealous for power over people - Acts 13:45; 17:5
c. The High Priest was jealous of the attention given the apostles by the crowds - Acts 5:17
d. Jews were jealous of honor given to Gentiles by Paul - Acts 22:21-22
10. "Undeify" false gods
a. Greeks rioted when they thought Paul dishonored their goddess Artemis - Acts 19:24-28
b. Communism views the State as "God," so Christians are hated for their denial of atheism.
c. Today - Exposing false teaching of New Age, humanistic religions incurs persecution
11. Non "politically correct" doctrine
a. Greeks hearing about the resurrection of the dead, mocked Paul - Acts 17:32
b. The Jews charged Paul with persuading people to worship God contrary to the Law - Acts 18:12-13
c. Sadducees arrested Peter for proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead - Acts 4:2
d. Paul was charged with advocating customs unlawful for Romans - Acts 16:20-21
e. Christians in socialist countries are despised, because the Bible endorses capitalism.
f. Modern churches and their pastors are being sued for the emotional impact of what is taught, ie: The preacher is responsible for the guilt feelings which produce suicides.
g. Christians are portrayed by the media as narrow and bigoted for teaching what the Bible says about homosexuality, abortion, child discipline, sexual purity, etc.
a. Pilate wanted acceptance from the crowd, so gave Christ to them for execution - Mark 15:15
b. Herod arrested Peter, because he wanted the Jews to like him - Acts 12:3
13. Association with law-breaking believers
a. Peter denied knowing Christ, because he feared arrest - Matt. 26:69-75
b. Jason, although he himself hadn't preached publicly, was arrested because he had welcomed Paul into his house - Acts 17:5-9
14. Threatening the economy
a. When Paul cast a demon out of the fortune-telling slavegirl, her owners realized they had lost their income, so had Paul arrested. - Acts 16:16-19
b. Idol-makers started a riot after realizing Paul would put them out of business - Acts19:24-28 c. Today, much of American industry despises Christians, because their way of life threatens the success of their business, ie: Industries related to alcohol, tobacco, pornography, music, movie, night clubs, gambling, police, politicians, abortion, fashions, magazines, cars, etc. Because they are threatened by the Church, they discriminate against Christians with their influence in the media, politics, employment, education, etc.
15. To make money from bribes
a. Felix held Paul prisoner, because he hoped for a bribe - Acts 24:25-27
b. Pastor Wurmbrand was released after 14 years in prison when someone out of the country paid a $10,000 "fee" to the Romanian government
c. Until 1991 Russian believers paid bribes to local police to ignore home prayer meetings
A few Bible promises related to suffering
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
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 2 Tim 3:12
For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him Phil 1:29
Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations, because of me. Matthew 24:9
All men will hate you because of me. Luke 21:17
Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. 1 John 3:13
They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. John 16:2
Remember the words I spoke to you: `No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also... John 15:20
We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God. Acts 14:22
But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. "Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened." 1 Peter 3:14
For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God . . . But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:19-21
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, "If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?" So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. 1 Peter 4:12-19
Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8:17