The Bible is very clear that Christians will suffer persecution for following Jesus. This persecution takes many different forms, and though many American Christians will never be murdered for their faith like early martyrs or believers in hostile countries, we will still experience prejudice and some hardships because of our faith.
Persecution is not a topic that we hear about much in the American church. When a teacher is bold enough to broach the topic, it’s all too easy to miss the point of what the Bible actually says Christians will experience (and historically have experienced). How much do we actually know about what persecution and suffering for righteousness’ sake look like?
Bible Verses about Persecution
Even a cursory reading of the Bible shows that persecution was a familiar topic to the early church. Paul was stoned several times (though he survived), and history tells us that almost all of the original 12 apostles were martyred. The famous “By Faith” passage in Hebrews 11 recounts several brutal methods of persecution familiar in both Old and New Testament times. Jesus Himself promised multiple times that Christians would inevitably face persecution. Whether it involved prison time, torture, legal battles, or even death, persecution affected countless members of the early church.
Christian Persecution Throughout History & Today
In the 300 years following the first recorded Christian martyrdom, the Roman and Jewish authorities only intensified their mistreatment of the church. While persecution is far less of an omnipresent threat in America today, it hasn’t slowed down in other parts of the world. The BBC warned that Christian persecution was “reaching genocide levels” in May 2019, and the Christian Post highlighted China, India, and Nigeria as especially dangerous areas for Christians.
Exact reasons for this persecution vary between countries and governments. For some, Christianity is perceived as contrary to the established religion and thus an affront to the local gods, a crime to be punished. In other places, the government refuses to allow any implication of a higher power than itself. And in a relatively new development, some countries persecute Christians as a form of ethnic cleansing. Regardless of the root cause, every form of Christian persecution has one thing in common: the victims’ only crimes are being Christians.
What Persecution Does NOT Look Like
Unfortunately, it’s too easy for American Christians to forget what persecution for the church has historically looked like and what it looks like even today. We’re blessed to live in a place where freedom of religion is still upheld and we cannot be attacked simply for being Christians. However, this doesn’t mean that even the slightest affront (or perceived affront) can be considered even a mild form of persecution. Christian leaders in America have incorrectly labeled several things as “persecution”, cheapening the real thing.
- Being confronted with their sin
- Being held legally accountable for wrongdoings. On the contrary, the Bible tells us to seek justice wherever possible.
It’s also important to remember that while we are called to endure persecution when it comes, we are not called to seek it out deliberately or expose others to the possibility. God does not expect us to purposefully endanger ourselves or our loved ones.
Pro Tip: Jesus told us that in this world, we would have trouble and suffer for our faith. But He has overcome the world! He will bring justice in the end.
Suffering for Righteousness’ Sake
American Christians don’t always understand the concept of persecution very well. We’re so accustomed to our religious freedom that we assume the worst forms of hardships can’t happen here. On the other extreme, we may interpret even perceived slights on our faith or just us personally as horrible persecutions that no one should have to endure.
This is why it’s so important to keep ourselves informed of what it truly means to be persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Most of us in America will never be martyred or arrested simply for being Christians. However, we should remember our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world who are suffering even today for Jesus’ sake. Keep your own experiences in line with what the Bible actually says and reach out to help your fellow Christians in their hardships. Doing this demonstrates a clear understanding of what persecution looks like as well as a love for others.
Join the conversation to learn more about how to help suffering Christians around the world.