Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake – Matthew 5:11
No need to explain Christian persecution. If you are a believer living a life committed to Christ, you know what I am about to say. But, what you may also know is persecution of believers is increasing around the world.
According to Open Doors USA, hundreds of Christians die monthly. After their properties and churches are destroyed, they endure incalculable suffering and unimaginable forms of violence. They are tortured for simply placing their faith in the most beautiful and glorious person to have graced the presence of humanity, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Who are these worldly persecutors with no tolerance for God’s message of redemption? What are they afraid of? What is it about the Christian message that angers the world’s masses to seek out and destroy those whose only crime is living a message of truth and love?
Elias, living in a Muslim community in East Africa, is a young man who came to Christ by reading the Bible. His family became outraged to learn he had converted to Christianity. The backlash from the family was severe and predictable. Elias knew there was a price to pay by placing his faith in Christ (Luke 14:28). As a consequence, his family threw him out of the house. Friends and relatives disowned him. He was found defective and then shunned, cast out, and forsaken.
Worse yet, he knew that to remain in the village was a bad idea. To remain meant certain torture followed by possible martyrdom. He was beginning to know the real cost of discipleship. He knew of and perhaps even witnesses the torture and execution of others whose only crime was to place their faith in Jesus Christ. He knew the forms of persecution ranged from mild abuse and torture to…well you can imagine.
But before leaving behind village and family, Elias bumped into Adam (a friend) and asked if he could share the Bible verse that changed his life. Adam was hesitant because all of his life was devoted to Islam. The Bible verse Elias shared were the words of Jesus that proclaimed, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6). Adam drew back in horror and became furious. He said:
I was so insulted. I threw the Bible on the ground and stomped on it. I even tried to attack Elias. I later met up with a friend who happened to be a devout Muslim. He reprimanded me saying. “This book you are jumping on is actually the Truth.” (Source)
Surprised, Adam mulled over the verse and couldn’t stop thinking about the meaning of those words spoken by Jesus. After an evangelist explained what the words meant and led him to faith in Christ, he rejected the Quran and gave his heart Jesus. Today Elias and Adam are not only renewed friends but brothers in Christ.
Why are Christians hated worldwide? The answer is that godliness is always an indictment on godlessness. The world demands freedom from behavioral restraint and especially from the fetters imposed by Christianity. What the world fails to see is they are slaves, fettered to a sinful nature without escape. They do not see the Gospel as having the power to break the fetters of slavery to sin (Romans 6:20); they are held captive by a fallen nature thinking they are free (John 8:34).
So then, the world hates Christians for one reason above all others: Jesus spoke “truth” that would forever condemn immoral ways, exposing all godless beings as overflowing with vile passions for self-gratification and self-aggrandizement (John 7:7; 14:6).
Like roaches in the night that scatter at sunrise, the world’s population abhors the light of the Gospel because they sense great discomfort in the presence of just one believer. Why? The apostle Paul answered the question by saying, “To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life…” (2 Corinthians 2:16).
To Elias and Adam and every believer today, including all having ever lived, the Gospel is the aroma of life leading to life. We are free.
What does the Bible say about Christian persecution? You can expect it. Jesus said: “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
What can we do about Christian Persecution? First, it is important to realize persecution of believers is a growing reality with no known resolve forthcoming to offset its advance. It is not going to stop. It’s like the spiritual cancer the Bible warns about in the end times. (Matthew 24:8-10)
Second, we have the option to reengage in the effort to participate in the Great Commission and take the message of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. (Mark 16:15-18) The rescue of Elias and Adam from the grip of Islam is one example of the power of the Gospel to transform and set lives free.
Lastly and in closing, we can help. We can look for ways to support Christian ministries devoted to helping persecuted Christians by supporting them through prayer, finance, and becoming a voice through communication, petition and education.