Question of the Week: What is the Christian attitude towards persecution?
In order to understand how we as Christians should respond towards persecution, we first need to understand what persecution is. Persecution is any negative treatment in response or reaction to a certain kind of behavior. There are good forms of persecution. When a criminal faces legal penalties for their behavior, their actions are being persecuted. When a child misbehaves and is disciplined by their parents, their actions are being persecuted. When a student gives an incorrect answer to a question and the teacher corrects them, their actions are being persecuted. When Christians refer to persecution, they are talking about facing negative treatment in a verbal or physical sense because they are acting like Jesus Christ.
With a proper understanding of persecution defined, the question remains how we should react to it. Like anything else in Christianity, our first and ultimate example for anything goes to the commands and example of Jesus Christ. Jesus gave His answer to this question in the Sermon on the Mount.
Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew 5:11-12 (NKJV)
Blessed, or supremely happy, was the reaction Christians should have when they receive negative treatment for His sake. This does not mean that being treated in a negative way in any sense is persecution. People who act obnoxious or aggressive with people shouldn’t consider the persecution that naturally follows to be because they are Christians. Jesus uses the example of the prophets before us who were treated cruelly for being prophets. Someone who spoke for God and faced opposition from the world were dealing with that persecution for talking like God. Likewise, someone who is reviled, persecuted, and has all kinds of evil said against them for Jesus’ sake would have to be acting like Jesus for His point to apply to them. In later conversations with His disciples, Jesus further clarified this.
“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.
John 16:1-3 (NKJV)
The answer to the question is “blessed.” The question that should follow is why. Why should we be supremely happy when we face social consequences for doing the right thing? To ask the question is almost to answer it. If you are doing what is right in God’s eyes, people may not like it. God always will. If He is the one whose opinion of and reaction to your behavior ultimately matters, then having a right relationship with Him will be your reason to be happy. We don’t enjoy being treated poorly. We shouldn’t try to develop a sense of masochism or look for opportunities for people to hate us. We simply need to remember that the one whose opinion of our lives ultimately matters needs to be God rather than men. That is the Christian response to persecution.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:10 (NKJV)
A Reason For Hope is a ministry of Calvary Christian Fellowship of Tucson
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