What it means to be persecuted
Many think of persecution as being the martyrdom of people long ago. Persecution brings up the idea of the Coliseum, lion' dens and crosses. For many, especially in the western world, we don't know that it exists anymore. However, persecution is still prevalent, even in "advanced" cultures, and it it's something every Christian needs to embrace - not just accept -as a part of life.
Persecution In A Modern World
We mentioned in the preview above that most people associate persecution with the early church. Because of the sacrifices and suffering they went through, we shy away from calling anything we endure as persecution. After all, how many of us have been stoned, imprisoned or murdered for our faith? While these things still happen today, they aren't so frequent to be thought of as common, especially in western culture. However, persecution is on the rise and it happens to every Christian whether we realize and acknowledge it or not. In order to understand how we are persecuted, though, we must know what actually constitutes persecution according to the Bible and Jesus Christ.
According to the term Christ used in his ministry, persecution is the pursuit and mistreatment of someone for what they believe. It is described often times as relentless, bullying and malicious behavior. Think about this definition. Has someone ever pursued you with the intention of hurting you somehow for your beliefs?
Persecution in Practice
We've seen persecution creep back into the realm of acceptability in every society today. If you are a Christian, you are considered out of touch and ignorant in some cultures and worthy of death and imprisonment in others. Regardless of the spectrum on which it falls, persecution of the church is in full swing today. Many justify their hatred and persecution of Christians citing that Christians were cruel at one time or another in history. While some Christians in the past have operated outside of the will of God and His Word, it doesn't change the fact that Christ's way is the right way. Any attack on His plan for man is an attack on the church and an attack on every Christian. Also, even when leadership in several denominations has been corrupt, suspect and, yes, hateful; the majority of Christians throughout history-no matter their denomination-have been kind and loving people. They follow the Bible and its teachings, and there is no better manual whereby men should model their lives.
Fighting Persecution The Right Way
So what do we do about persecution? How do we combat it? Are we take up arms? Do we fight hatred with hatred? The answer may shock you:
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; (Matthew 5:44).
In the same chapter in which Christ tells us we are blessed when we are persecuted, he tells us to bless those that curse us. So when somebody bad mouths you or God, don't return venom with venom. Bless them, which means to pray blessings over them. When people hate us, we're told to do good things to them. That means to do right by them. It's easy to want to get revenge on a bully or a jerk, but God challenges us to do the right thing in all of our actions. Finally, when they are abusive and persecute us openly, we don't persecute them back. We pray for them that God would reveal to them his truth. It's this kind of mindset that changed the mind of Saul of Tarsus and its the same mindset that could change your community, too.
Chris Farris is the author of The Way, a manual detailing how to implement the Beatitudes into your life. He review events and other media and offers other insights into writing and working for the Kingdom of God.