Persecution: A Biblical Response to Discrimination and Intolerance Against Christians
By Chip Faulkner, GBA Moderator
Authentic followers of Christ Jesus that “desire to live a godly life” will be persecuted for their faith (2 Tim. 3:12). Since the New Testament was written to believers and local churches in a sensual society similar to that of modern America, we can appreciate the relevance of the Word in an era of mounting persecution.
First, we should be prepared. Jesus hid nothing when he described us as being sent out like “sheep in the midst of wolves” (Mt. 10:16-20). He forewarned of persecution in saying that his disciples would be “delivered up” by their relatives and close friends (Lk. 21:12-16). Since the world hates Jesus, be ready for the world to hate us (Jn. 15:18-20; 1 Jn. 3:13). In the last days, religious people who “have the appearance of godliness” will lead the way in severely persecuting genuine “lovers of God” (Jn. 16:1-4; 2 Tim. 3:1-5). So let us “not be surprised” at the fiery trials that come our way, and we should “rejoice and be glad” to suffer for the name of Christ (1 Pet. 4:12-16).
Next, we should be prayerful. Our human nature is to desire revenge and retaliation, but Jesus commands that we “ pray for those who persecute you” (Mt. 5:44-45). Remember that the weapons at our disposal are “not of the world” (2 Cor. 10:4). Trials develop spiritual maturity in intercession. Suffering for the faith increases our empathy and specifies our prayer.
It is important that we be proactive. Since persecution is new to most American believers, we need to sharpen our skills in strategically and fearlessly going on the offense with the gospel. Churches are feeling threatened by the rapidly changing culture. There will be a temptation for churches to react with a fort mentality and seek safety behind closed doors. However, similar to the Christians in pagan Rome, we must take the initiative in “blessing those who persecute you” (Rom. 12:14). Just like the Father sent the Son into the world, we are sent into the world as salt and light (Jn. 17:18; Mt. 5:13-16).
As children of God, we are to be pure as we live “without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted” generation. Granted, wickedness is getting darker in our society, but if we are “blameless and innocent” we have the opportunity to “shine as lights” (Phil. 2:14-15). The distinctions of our Christian worldview, values and morals certainly draw attack, yet this persecution will result in a purer church. God does his best work through clean vessels.
In seasons of persecution, it is vital that genuine believers and true churches draw closer together and be in partnership (Phil. 1:6). Persecution will sadly reveal that the majority of members on church roles are phony professors. Likewise, persecution will expose the startling number of false prophets currently serving as church leaders. When it costs everything to follow Christ, many will deny the gospel and join the ranks in assailing the saints. As church attendance wanes and income falls, it will be imperative to pool our resources and draw encouragement from one another (Phil. 1:3-6).
Another principle when facing persecution is to be positive. The apocalyptic literature in the Bible is there to encourage us. Read it and rejoice because God wins in the end! Jesus actually said we are considered “blessed” to be persecuted and that you will receive the “kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:10-11). Not even persecution can separate us from the love of Christ (Rom. 8:35-37). Even if we “suffer for righteousness’ sake” we should not be fearful or troubled as we positively defend our hope with “gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:14-15). God has the ability to take what enemies employ towards evil and transform it for our good (Phil. 1:12-14).
Finally, we should persevere in the surpassing power of our Savior. If we remain “steadfast under trial” and “faithful unto death” we will receive the “crown of life” (Jas. 1:12; Rev. 2:10). Echoing the testimony of Paul: “When persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat” (1 Cor. 4:11-13). If we remain resolute in our affliction and persecution, we will not be forsaken (2 Cor. 4:7-11).
The first waves of persecution are only beginning to wash across our country. In our “struggle against sin” we have “not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Heb. 12:4). Even though the price of proclaiming truth will prove enormous, may we go with our Savior “outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured” (Heb. 13:12-15).
A Note from Bro. Sherman Smith, Administrative Team Chairman
YOU CAN STILL CALL THE GBA OFFICE! Yes, Dr. Richmond has retired, but the work of GBA continues. The Administrative Team is actively caring for the needs of the association, the Search Team is processing recent church assessment information, The Bethel Network has many mission teams working with new church plants, and Amy Barnes is still taking calls at the GBA office. Please don’t hesitate to call the GBA office for any information, resources, or help of any kind. We are still poised and ready to serve you!
We have new office hours: 9:00 am—2:00 pm Monday through Thursday. Call Amy Barnes (254-3953) or after hours, call Pastor Sherman Smith (540-9332).
What you can do:
(1) Pray for the Administrative Team as we continue to manage the ministries of the association,
(2) Please pray for our Search Team as they organize and prepare for our future DOM, and
(3) Please continue to pray for all of our churches, pastors and leaders as we seek to reach the lost for Christ in all our communities.
Blessed by you,
Bro. Sherman Smith, Administrative Team Chairman
Philippians 2:14 - 16
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.