The Persecuted Church
Jesus said in John 15:18, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you” and in verse 20, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.”
In Matthew 10:16, He said, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.”
However, He also said in Matthew 5:11, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you…”
Millions of Christians around the world are being persecuted for their faith today. Why?Because Satan is the prince of this world and he is the enemy of God and His church. Persecution of Christians comes from different sources: governments, religious authorities, economic establishments, families, and mobs. Many Christians have been driven from their homes, and their homes and churches have been burned. They suffer from economic persecution (not able to find work), rejection from their families, starvation, imprisonment, torture, and having their children abducted. Some are even murdered because of their faith. Yes, this is still going on today.
When Jesus revealed himself to Saul in Acts 9:4, He said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Saul was persecuting Christians, but Jesus said that he was persecuting Him. We are the body of Christ that the enemy seeks to kill and destroy.
In countries where we have religious freedom, the enemy attacks Christians with pride, guilt, doubt, fear, materialism, etc. In countries where religious freedom is limited or nonexistent, Christians face the same battles but in different circumstances.
Our brothers and sisters in North Korea know that their faith can cost them their life. They can be tortured for owning a Bible. North Korea is rated the world’s worst persecutor of Christians. Between 50,000 and 70,000 believers are in labor camps where many of them die of malnutrition and mistreatment. Many try to flee the country. In the midst of all this, however, the underground church there is committed to spreading the gospel.
In Eritrea, a country in the northwestern part of Africa, many believers have been arrested and jailed, often in metal shipping containers. In Orissa, India, 315 Christian villages were destroyed by mobs in August 2008. More than 200 churches were demolished and 54,000 people were forced to flee.
Why should we know these facts? These are our brothers and sisters in Christ and there is something we can do for them – we can pray. Listen to what a North Korean pastor says, “We thank God that there are so many people who are praying for our country. Your prayers strengthen the Christians in North Korea.” A woman in Iran whose husband was arrested and sent to prison because he became a Christian says, “We are so encouraged by prayer and to know that many people are praying for us.”
There are several organizations that support and encourage the persecuted Christians. You can find more information on their websites: www.opendoorsusa.org and www.persecution.com. We can help them distribute Bibles and other literature, train leaders, broadcast the gospel, etc. Another good source for updated news about the persecuted church is www.compassdirect.org.
In Romans 12:14, we read, “Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse.”
Jesus loved and prayed for those who persecuted Him. Many persecutors of the church have become believers, starting with Saul. God’s love and grace is for all. Our brothers and sisters who stand firm under persecution are not heroes; they are not being punished for sin; and they are not defeated! Some leave their country and others choose to stay. God’s will is different for each one of us (Stephen and James were killed; Peter was delivered from prison). Some have church buildings, some meet in houses. For some the only fellowship they have is with family members. Some are isolated. They all count on our prayers, and they are praying for us.
Source: Elaine Cotsford