Curious, I thought I knew what the word meant. I also thought I had never experienced it, but I was wrong.
According to Dictionary.com it has been defined as a program or campaign to exterminate, drive away, or subjugate people based on their membership in a religious, ethnic, social, or racial group:
Hmm, this is a pretty broad definition and yet, I suppose more of us have never considered the fact that we have been persecuted at one time or another. According to the definition, many of us have been persecuted more than we are aware. It is likely we will be persecuted more than we believe possible.
But what if we find ourselves, dare I say it, being persecuted, what do we do? Do we take a stand; fight the battle scream to the wind, with fists raised, “No more”! This course of action, of which, I hate to say, I have followed, would and does feel really good; pleasurable moments of gratifying satisfaction come so quickly and far too easily… And then when the warm feelings of vindication subside, guilt comes. Thank God for our Holy Reminder, the Holy Spirit. He reminds us:
Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. (John 15:20)
These words are intuitive. Of course, we want to be like Jesus in all ways, I think, especially in the bright sunshine of the day when all is well. Of course, we want God to view us as worthy of persecution, but in the dark of night; in the depths of excoriating pain and deep despair, our will fails and it becomes too hard. Have you ever been there? Forgiveness and self-crucifixion are impossible!
It is a hard and fast fact that crucifixion of our old nature and forgiveness of others and are impossible, without God. Only with God will we be victorious in persecution. ALL things are possible; even loving, growing and forgiving through persecution. We must be entirely empty and utterly broken and devoid of self for Christ to fill us with love for our persecutors.
As Believers in Christ, we are also called to take a stand for and with our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. “From verbal harassment to hostile feelings, attitudes and actions, Christians in areas with severe religious restrictions pay a heavy price for their faith. Beatings, physical torture, confinement, isolation, rape, severe punishment, imprisonment, slavery, discrimination in education and employment, and even death are just a few examples of the persecution they experience on a daily basis.” (Open Doors)
“So if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” 1 Corinthians 12:25-26 .
So as we suffer with our brothers and sisters, Hebrews 13:3 tells us,
“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (Persecution.com)
What hope do we have then? How should we proceed? Paul answers these questions as he writes to Timothy. We along with Timothy are exhorted to continue on the path of faith.
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it (2Ti 3:12-14)
The apostle Peter also shares with us:
Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Because of his great mercy he gave us new life by raising Jesus Christ from death. This fills us with a living hope, and so we look forward to possessing the rich blessings that God keeps for his people. He keeps them for you in heaven, where they cannot decay or spoil or fade away. They are for you, who through faith are kept safe by God’s power for the salvation which is ready to be revealed at the end of time. Be glad about this, even though it may now be necessary for you to be sad for a while because of the many kinds of trials you suffer. Their purpose is to prove that your faith is genuine. Even gold, which can be destroyed, is tested by fire; and so your faith, which is much more precious than gold, must also be tested, so that it may endure. Then you will receive praise and glory and honor on the Day when Jesus Christ is revealed. You love him, although you have not seen him, and you believe in him, although you do not now see him. So you rejoice with a great and glorious joy which words cannot express, because you are receiving the salvation of your souls, which is the purpose of your faith in him. (1 Peter 1:3-9)
Be encouraged persecuted one. God loves you and is on your side. He will make the impossible, possible. For remember, God is still in the miracle business. He is faithful and we can trust Him.
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Mic 6:8)