Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Matthew 5: 10 – 11
There have been many reports on the news recently about the persecution of Christians. Many in Iraq whose families have lived there for centuries are being forced to leave their homes to escape death. Many are being forced to flee in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well, while others are being imprisoned in Iran and other nations. This gives many people even more reason to ask, “Where is God? If God is who He says He is, why would He let these things happen to the people He promised to keep in His care?” Yet, God knew these times would come.
It is so difficult for us Christians to understand the attitude of non-Christians toward us when we have a message that could bring such assurance of God’s love and hope to their lives. But for the most part, they don’t want anything to do with us or what we have to share. They completely reject our values and our beliefs. If we don’t act, talk, or think like the world does, we are different. We stand out. Perhaps we make them feel uncomfortable and threatened as we bring to light the darkness in which they live. They choose to reject God and in turn they reject us, and those strong emotions can lead to persecution.
Persecution means “hostility and ill treatment; the act of oppressing or punishing, even causing harm or death because of religion or race.” We tend to think of persecution as something that only happened to early believers, but sadly, more Christians have been martyred in the 20th century than in all previous centuries combined. The Bible clearly teaches that as our culture becomes more secularized, that Christianity, the church, and Christians will come under greater and more intense attack. We already see Christians being portrayed as intolerant zealots and our very values and beliefs are being ridiculed, attacked, and limited in our own nation – one that was founded upon Christian values and has stood as a beacon of light around the world.
May we pray for these Christians who are being persecuted – that they will feel God’s strength and courage and that they can rest in the knowledge that His presence is with them. May we pray for our fellow Christians in our own country – that each of us will have the faith and strength to stand up for the One who gave His life for us. And may we pray for those who don’t know His saving grace.
We will trust in Him and His eternal plan for all those who call upon His name.
Our most loving and gracious Lord, we ask that you be with Christians around the world who are being persecuted for their faith. We pray for Christians in our own nation. May your spirit fill all our hearts with strength to trust in you. Amen