Persecution is the act or practice of harassing or punishing in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict especially those who differ in origin, religion, or social outlook. This comes in obvious and not so obvious ways. The levels of persecution vary from country to country – from Christians in America being fined or even jailed for not participating in a homosexual wedding to North Korea where Christians are tortured or killed because of their faith.
Throughout world history, people have been persecuted by other people for a variety of evil reasons. We can look at church history and see many Christians have suffered greatly and continue to suffer for living and sharing the gospel.
Paul told us that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus said if they persecuted Him, they would also persecute His followers (John 15:20). Christians have different values than the rest of the world. We are compelled by the gospel, while the world is driven by the love of sin. It is the Christians' separation from the world that awakens the world’s hatred towards them.
I had the opportunity to travel to China and work with the underground church 10 years ago. While we were there our goal was to meet with born-again Christians who needed Christian education resources in their language, worship together, and encourage each other. It was what many of you are thinking about when you hear about the underground church. We met privately, undercover in a hotel room where we went in the room one at a time for over an hour to avoid anything obvious.
I’ve also traveled to India and worked with the few local Christians there to provide tangible needs for communities and villages as a way to witness to them. In India, just like in China, Christianity is not welcomed and, in some parts, it is snuffed out to the point of killing those who live out the gospel. Everywhere we went in India it was illegal to evangelize or to share the gospel. It was also illegal to convert anyone to the Christian faith. In both these countries I have read and now have seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears the persecution that Christians face in these two countries.
Unfortunately, a small number of Christians strive to create an environment of persecution because they see how God uses it. This is wrong. We should always strive to eliminate persecution and promote righteousness, liberty, and the things of God for ourselves and our neighbors. However, it is the hard reality that in a fallen and sinful world persecution exists and God does use it in many ways.
With each visit to these countries, I have grown more and more appreciative of the liberties and blessings that come with living in America. Through my visits to these countries, I have become more courageous, compassionate, and prepared to speak up when God allows me to share the gospel. Also, I have become more sensitive to the Holy Spirit when God would have me speak into the culture or in the lives of others about what He has said in His 10 Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount.
Having traveled and seen Christians suffering in other parts of the world I am asking you to remember your brothers and sisters in prayer. Please invite your kids, Sunday school class, church, and others to join you.
We can never underestimate the power of prayer and the acts of kindness towards family in Christ who we have never met in other parts of the world.
“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).