As we continue our Word Nerd Wednesday study in the Beatitudes, Sarah Travis brings us an in depth look the word persecute.
PERSECUTE – “to harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict; specifically: to cause to suffer because of belief”
Reading through the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-10, I am always moved by verse 10 in particular … “Blessed are those who are persecuted …” and then we read on in verse 11: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Persecution, it’s something we hear so much about, but I know I certainly often fail to grasp a full understanding.
- 322 Christians are killed for their faith
- 214 Churches and Christian properties are destroyed
- 772 forms of violence are committed against Christians – beatings, abductions, rapes, arrests, forced marriages
(taken from Open Doors)
As defined by Open Doors, Christian persecution is any hostility experienced from the world as a result of one’s identification as a Christian. This can be as severe as physical abuse and killings, to verbal harassment and hostile attitudes.
One study I read reported that over 600 MILLION Christians were prevented from practicing their faith in 2016.
The same study stated 90,000 Christians were killed for their beliefs in 2016. That is one believer every 6 minutes. Christians are THE.MOST.PERSECUTED group in the world.
Reported numbers of Christians in countries such as Iraq are declining fast. Not only due to being killed, but also fleeing their homes and going into hiding.
And this isn’t just in other areas of the world. Churches in the U.S. have been targeted and attacked. Believers are daily degraded for their faith.
So why are we, as Christians, persecuted?
Because the world is rebelling against Christ IN us. He Himself tells us to expect hatred from the world.
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.”
John 15:18-19 NIV
Paul reminds Timothy that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” 2 Timothy 3:12.
Why Endure Persecution?
So why? Why endure the persecution? Why put up with the suffering?
Because Jesus said: “whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. (Mark 8:35).”
This world is not our home. As Christians, we are placed in this world to be the hands and feet of Jesus. To be the beautiful feet carrying the Good News to many. It is our call, our purpose, our responsibility.
Because even one person escaping an eternity of persecution, punishment, and complete desolation in the hands of the enemy, walking into the arms of their Savior at the end of their days, is worth it to me.
Because to represent Jesus in this world means going against the ways of the world. It means not conforming to the world, but transforming our beliefs and behavior to be in line with the pure and perfect will of God. His ways are higher and so much better! His ways are ultimately good and are not set to harm us. Living like Jesus is fixing our eyes upon the hope of eternity and the heartbeat of Heaven.
Persecution Rejects Truth
My husband had a friend who knew the Truth, but denied it.
He asked my husband questions about his faith, but shunned his answers. We had only been married two years when we flew to visit his family for a weekend trip in another state. Bear in mind, this was the first time I had spent any time with them. From the moment we arrived (for our three day stay), we could feel the tension in the home. It seemed like everything we said and did the whole weekend was met with opposition and questioning.
Their lives had moved further into the darkness and the light we brought into their home was more than they could bear. Excusing himself, he left his wife to take us to the airport. Soon after we arrived home, my husband received a text message from him saying they could no longer be friends. They had been friends for nearly ten years. Jason had a closer walk with Lord, but now he also had a Christ-centered marriage. This was evidently more Jesus than he could handle.
He rejected the Lord, not us.
Friends, I know that story pales in comparison to persecution you may have faced, and certainly to much of the persecution in the world, but I wanted to illustrate how day-to-day this persecution can be. I wanted to call out this behavior for what it is. Because maybe you have experienced something similar and not realized it as a rejection of Christ and not yourself.
If you would like more information about the Persecuted Church and what you can do to help I recommend looking at OpenDoor. I encourage you to stay informed, because, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:26, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”
And remember the words of Peter:
“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; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.”
1 Peter 3:14-16 NASB
“we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted,
but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed”
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NASB
Born and raised in Scotland, and talking with a “wee” Americanized-Scottish twang, Sarah is now wife to her American dream hubby, Jason, and is SAHM to their 1 year old son Ezra! She is an author, speaker, and inspirational Bible teacher passionate about helping women believe their acceptance and belonging in Christ, not in the world.
Whenever she is not running around keeping Ezra out of mischief or writing, Sarah volunteers for Proverbs 31 Ministries as a writer for Online Bible Studies and she works as a Mary & Martha independent consultant.
Sarah’s life verse is: “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9 ESV
Linking Up With
For more encouragement please join the discussions on these fabulous blog link ups – Suzanne Eller, Thought Provoking Thursday, Susan B. Mead, Faith Filled Friday, Grace and Truth, Faith and Fellowship Friday, Grace and Truth Friday, Good Morning Monday, Soul Survival, Monday Musings, Rah Rah Link Up, Tell His Story, Woman to Woman Wednesday, Women With Intention Wednesday, Sitting Among Friends, Testimony Tuesday, Planting Roots, Salt and Light, and Fresh Market Friday.