Serving those who face persecution
Last week we looked at how we can turn to God when we face the pain of persecution. Today, we turn our attention to those who suffer for Christ. What can we do to help them overcome and thrive even when they face the sting of persecution? Find out below!
More than Just the Obvious
Even though we may have faced persecution ourselves, seeing and identifying persecution isn't always easy. We often think of persecution as people being beaten, thrown in prison or even murdered for the cause of Christ. Those are severe manifestations of persecution and they still exist today. However, they are not the only forms of persecution.
Persecution also occurs through social exclusion from work, school and other group activities. It comes from passive aggressive behavior and comments from one's family, friends and peers. Persecution has even found its way into the technology renaissance. Email, text messaging and social media are all platforms for persecution. The dangerous thing about all of these forms of persecution is that they are hard to spot if we aren't paying attention.
It's easy to see someone beaten or thrown in prison for their faith and call that persecution. We can and should respond to those overt attacks on faith with love and encouragement immediately. However, when someone is bullied or belittled for years and nobody encourages them, that can have the same psychological and spiritual ramifications as being publicly humiliated.
Identifying and Responding To Latent Persecution
How can we help those who are subtly persecuted? The approach is a two-fold. Much like many of the PSAs in the USA that come out against bullying, we need to create programs that identify persecution and teaches Christians how to handle it. We've discussed some of the subtle forms of persecution already, and we Highly Encourage you to share your thoughts and stories in the comment section. This needs to become a dialogue that crosses multiple platforms and The Way is just a starting point. If we can get people talking about it, this will result in a dialogue that will help shape our reaction to persecution. This dialogue will assist us in the second phase of the plan: responding to persecution
When we see a loved one getting attacked, the carnal reaction is to jump in and defend them by attacking the aggressor. However, that's not what the early church did. Never in the recorded ministry in the New Testament do we see people physically fight back. Peter and John refused to fight back in Acts 4 when they were whipped. Paul never led a prison riot and Jesus certainly didn't stage a coup from the steps of Pilate's house. All of these figures were great men of God and they faced down their persecution with physical reservation. We must do the same thing, both for ourselves and for others. We can't get into physical altercations with people when they bully us or the ones we love, which should be all Christians. It's not our cause to fight the world but to bring Christ to them. If they reject it and are cruel in the process, we can't and shouldn't defend ourselves through physical retaliation. That being said, we can do a couple things.
Defend Yourself The Right Way
Remember how we talked about not fighting back physically. Words aren't physical. We have a right and a calling from God to defend our faith against anyone who would attack us. When they make fun of us for being Christian or how we are led by God to serve as Christians, we have the right to call them out for their disrespect, not towards us, but God. Acts 4, Peter and John didn't curse the men for hitting them. They called them out for not understanding the revelation of Jesus Christ and belittling the truth. Stephen used the entire Old Testament to refute the persecuting claims of the high priests about his faith. Paul defended his faith before religious and secular counsels. The pattern here is that the persecuted here defended God and their faith rather than themselves. It's expected for us to say stop making fun of me or hurting me when someone persecutes us. However, when we turn their actions towards God rather than us, that begins to cut the persecutor to the quick. It also testifies to those around us how devoted we are and who the person who is persecuting really is.
Get Out of There
If someone persists in persecuting you after you have defended God multiple times, the best thing to do is prayerfully consider getting away from them. This can be difficult as relocating is not easy or cheap and sometimes its not even possible. I felt persecuted in school and wanted desperately to move away, but my parents couldn't afford to move us to a new city. I had to stick it out and I ended up turning some of those enemies into friends as a result (never give up on witnessing, even to the persecuted. God just might surprise you because of your faith). Sometimes you'll have to stick it out and let God do the work. It might end up like my situation and those who persecuted you turn into friends. It might end up you are persecuted as long as you live where you are at. Either way, God will honor your sacrifice and remembers the suffering of his saints.
However, if you have the opportunity and it seems that God is opening a window for escape-especially if you are in physical danger-considering a move isn't a cowardly thing. Paul told the people to run to another city. David hid in caves. Neither of these men can be considered as cowards. Don't be afraid to leave. It doesn't make you a failure, especially if God has opened a window for an exit. It probably means he has something greater for you somewhere else.
Start a Dialogue
We've provided everyone with some tips and information on how to handle persecution when it comes your way. However, the only true way we can combat persecution is by standing together. We won't know if a brother or sister is facing persecution if we don't get involved in their lives and share openly with them. Once that starts happening, they'll feel comfortable in talking with us and it'll be easier to share when persecution starts rather than waiting until it is overwhelming us.
Start a dialogue with your fellow Christians about persecution.
See who is going through persecution and what kind of persecution they face.
Share these tips with someone you know is going through persecution.
Provide some tips you might have (please try to reference the Bible when sharing advice)
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.