“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem…” Acts 8:1
Rejection of God’s Word brings persecution of His people. Jesus said to expect it and not to take it personally because the world hated Him first, because He has called us out of the world and because the world does not know Him or His Father (John 15:18,19&21). He said the world would hate us because He has given us His Word (John 17:14) which they have no room for (John 8:37). Jesus even predicted, “a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God” (John 16:2). The early disciples certainly experienced this, but many Christians around the world today also face intense persecution. The Open Doors website shows Pew Research statistics claiming that 75% of the world’s population live in areas with severe religious restrictions, and the United States Department of State claims Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution from their governments or surrounding neighbors simply because of their belief in Jesus Christ. Open Doors also claims that 322 Christians are killed and 722 experience violence each month because of their faith. How are we supporting these suffering brothers and sisters in Christ?
What does the Bible say our responsibility is for the persecuted? We are taught in 1 Corinthians 12:25-26, that the body of Christ should have equal concern for all of its parts, and if one part suffers, all suffer. We may not understand that we are suffering if that suffering is out of sight and out of mind, but God says it’s a reality. Just because we don’t see the cancer cells in our body doesn’t mean we can ignore the disease. God’s Word says we are to remember those suffering as if we ourselves were suffering (Hebrews 13:3), we are to help carry their burdens (Galatians 6:2). If our churches are not pursuing this, we can take it upon ourselves to obey God’s Word in this area. Organizations like Open Doors and Voice of the Martyrs that support the persecuted church offer resources on their web-sites to educate us on persecution and ways to serve and help. They say the #1 thing persecuted Christians ask for is prayer. So let’s remember them and support them with prayer, and ask God to give us His heart for His persecuted church.
As Christian liberties are eroded and God is increasingly removed from our public and private places, the result is less room for and more rejection of His Word. Are we heading for a time of greater persecution? Are we prepared? Some of us may not yet have experienced intense, violent persecution, but just living godly lives brings persecution (2 Timothy 3:12), maybe in our work places or even in our own homes. It’s God’s Word that prepares us for and carries us through it, but even Christians aren’t making room for His Word. According to the Barna Group’s 2014 State of the Bible report, close to 60 percent of Christians report reading their Bibles only four or fewer times a year with busyness being the most common reason for this neglect. If we aren’t experiencing, teaching and modeling the excitement, the power, the life-saving, life-giving and life-guiding benefits of knowing and obeying God’s Word, why will others want to make room for it? If we say we believe it, but make no time for it, are we not in a sense guilty of rejecting it? What will you do this week to make room for God’s Word?
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you that you take the persecution of your church personally, that you are aware of and with those who suffer for your name. Forgive those of us who have been too concerned with our own lives to pay attention to this issue. Gives us wisdom to help carry their burdens, courage to share in their suffering and a commitment to pray for them. Father give us your heart for the entire body of Christ. Forgive us for not making room for your Word, for the busyness that chokes it out of our lives, for the lack of witness to it’s importance and power in our lives. Help us to make it the foundation of our day. In the great name of Jesus who overcame all suffering. Amen!