Christian persecution is everywhere. Your faith in Christ will cost you – a lot.
But He is worth any price you’ll ever pay…
I remember distinctly the incredulity and fiery zeal that her words stirred within me.
She wasn’t a believer. She had made that abundantly clear numerous times. It wasn’t the ‘cool’ thing to believe. And being ‘cool’ mattered to her.
But as her words echoed through the air, they stirred up what truly mattered to me.
The reality that Jesus stepped out of heaven and onto this fragile planet, clothing Himself in weak, human flesh and allowing Himself to be beaten, mocked, badgered and murdered. And the devastatingly glorious fact that He didn’t stay dead. He shook off death itself and rose again the third day after His brutal crucifixion.
That was what mattered to me. Even though at that point my life was filled with more hypocrisy than holiness, deep inside my heart God was stirring up a passion and a zeal for His truth.
And here she was. Mocking it. Deriding it. Dismissing it.
I wouldn’t have felt so defensive about her questions if she’d been asking from curiosity, genuinely trying to uncover the truth. But she wasn’t. She was being provocative for the fun of it, deliberately challenging the people-pleasing Christians around her, who didn’t want to make her feel excluded or offended in any way.
I looked around at the five or six other people at my table. All people who identified themselves as Christians. Would any of us be bold enough to take a stand against the lies and contentions that disdainfully dripped from her smug lips?
Christian Persecution: A Guaranteed Fact
The Bible makes it clear. It’s inevitable that “…all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12)
The minute you began to follow Jesus, the enemy took note and added you to his hit list. Persecution is to be expected. And these days, it’s around every corner.
We are literally seeing the truth of 2 Timothy 3:1-5 come into being before our eyes:
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.
Intolerance to Biblical truth grows on a seemingly hourly basis. Even what were seen as largely Christian nations are now reeling with rage at the follower of Christ’s audacity to proclaim the exclusivity of Jesus for salvation and the Biblical stance on hot-button issues such as the sanctity of life, marriage, creation, and gender.
The immediacy of social media and the erosion of Bible-based standards of society only compound the hostility even more.
These days, you don’t have to travel to a far-off country to be persecuted for your faith. Just head to your local coffee shop, your social media feed. Maybe even your church.
Persecution Comes In All Forms
My encounter with the contentious girl wasn’t the first opposition I faced regarding my faith. And there have been plenty more since.
The closer I walk with the Lord, the more hackles I see rise up in those around me. The more pressure there is to ‘lighten up’ and fit in with the world’s out of shape mold.
I’ve been excluded at school. I’ve been laughed at. I’ve had broken glass thrown at my head while handing out invitations to a kids club at church. I’ve been spat at for putting on my Street Pastor coat and heading out into the cold and dark midnight streets to bring practical care and assistance to those who were vulnerable, lost or too intoxicated to realize where they even were. I’ve had raised eyebrows, silence, and quiet judgment from plenty of people – including some that I know extremely well. And including some who identify themselves as followers of Christ.
Compared to what some Christians around the world face on a daily basis, though, the opposition I have had is nothing.
Each month, the Open Doors magazine that arrives in our mailbox bring more and more accounts of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world who have endured the harshest forms of physical persecution. Their suffering is unimaginable in the comfortable, affluent surroundings that most Christians in the ‘West’ call everyday life.
I have read of men and women who have been imprisoned, burned, raped, tortured and brutally murdered – all because they love and follow Jesus.
According to Open Doors, 322 Christians are killed for their faith and 772 are victims of hideous violence. Every single month.
But their faith only grows stronger. The Lord becomes even more precious to them, as they experience His presence and power in their darkest moments.
To them, the pain is worth the price.
Yet, we’re worried that if we stand for what’s right, people might, do what? Think we’re odd? Ignore us? Attack us with their words instead of their hands, guns or swords?
In light of the exhortations of Scripture and the examples of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world, let’s get real.
Let’s get our priorities and our perspectives straight. And let’s examine what the Word says those responsibilities actually are.
We’re Called To Speak The Truth In Love
The easiest thing to do is to stay quiet.
To not make a big deal about things – even if you don’t fully agree with them. Don’t rock the boat. Stick to the status quo. And every other excuse ever invented.
But what does the Bible say?
“ Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17)
What’s the right thing to do? Micah 6:8 tells us:
He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?
Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with our God. These are not only good – but required.
Our level of obedience to God reveals either the fierceness or the flimsiness of our faith. It allows us to measure how strong our faith truly is – or if it’s even there at all.
Ephesians and 1 Peter echo the Micah verse, adding clear instructions on how to obey:
speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ (Ephesians 4:15)
But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence…For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. (1 Peter 3:14-15;17)
We are to obey the truth no matter what the consequences. We are to stand for justice, sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts and speak the truth in gentleness and love.
We are not to fear persecution, difficult as that may be, but we are to be ready and on the alert to make a reasoned defense for why we believe what we believe.
We are equally wrong if we speak the truth without love and gentleness, or if we keep our heads down and avoid saying anything at all.
Yes, there will be consequences. There will be pain of some kind – whether emotional or physical.
We will not be the first to experience it. Nor will we be the last.
A Great Cloud Of Witnesses
All throughout history, the world has rejected and abused those who bear the name of Christ. Hebrews 11:33-38 details many:
who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.
These verses from Hebrews 11 provide a summary of various sufferings God’s people in history suffered. Hundreds of years ago, people were burned at the stake for owning Bibles. Rachel Scott and Cassie Bernall were targeted and killed for their faith in a high-school shooting. Countless Christians all around the world are more frequently being physically attacked and often killed for loving Jesus.
It’s not an easy road. But when we look at Jesus, it all pales.
For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-5)
Boldly Speaking The Truth
A few people at my table that night offered a response to the girl who was trying to provoke us. I was one of them.
Inside, I was shaking with passion and conviction, but I spoke, laying out my reasons for my faith, flimsy as it was at that point in my life.
I quoted Scripture. I presented logic. I spoke the truth with as much love and kindness as I could, even though deep down I despised the mocking spirit she’d embraced.
She ignored me even more after that night. Some of the Christians at my table, who didn’t share my convictions, distanced themselves, too.
Although we are to speak the truth freely, there is always a cost. One we must be prepared to pay.
It might be a friendship, it might be how others perceive us. We may be met with hostility, lack of understanding, or exclusion. The cost could be physical injury. Perhaps, even death.
The Cost Worth Paying
No matter what kind of persecution you face as you live out the truth of the gospel, you can be certain of this: you will receive it, and every moment will be worth it when you come face to face with the One who suffered first.
You will see Jesus.
The Author and Finisher of your faith. The Lamb who was slain.
You will see His face. His glory.
And His scars.
John 20:27-28 describes how Jesus showed the marks of His crucifixion injuries to Thomas and Revelation 5:6 describes how John saw “a Lamb standing, as if slain”.
Whether we acquire physical scars or emotional scars as a result of our faith, we will one day stand before the One who bears physical scars from conquering death and sin.
And He will wipe all our tears away. Tears of sorrow, of regret, and of the heartache we endured from all forms of persecution on this fallen planet.
Remember – following Jesus is worth any cost to your reputation, your comfort – your very life. And He is waiting to wipe your tears away forever, once your time on earth is over.
Make the most of it, as long as you’re here. Speak the truth in love to those who are genuinely searching and to those who just want to antagonize.
And endure the hardship, remembering the eternity that awaits you, where the One who knows your every thought, pain and hope is working all things together for good, according to His purpose (see Romans 8:28).
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12)
>>> LIVING IT OUT >>>
- PRAY that God will strengthen your faith to withstand even the harshest persecution.
- STUDY, to be prepared to give a well-reasoned defense next time someone challenges what you believe.
- HELP your brothers and sisters worldwide who are experiencing persecution on a daily basis. This could be through writing letters of encouragement or donating funds to provide for physical needs. Visit Voice of the Martyrs and Open Doors to find out more and get involved.
- REMEMBER: Jesus is worth any cost that may be required of you.
To help you reflect on 2 Timothy 3:12, I’ve made a free printable Bible verse art print. Display it somewhere you’ll see it often, and use it as a reminder that He is worth the cost of any and all persecution you will ever face.
→ Does fear hold you back from speaking about Jesus? Click to read: 3 Ways Fear Stops You Sharing The Gospel (and How To Overcome It)