Persecution of Christians has occurred throughout history and continues to happen in many parts of the world today. The Bible provides guidance on how believers should respond when faced with persecution for their faith.
Jesus made it clear that Christians would face persecution and hardship in this world. In John 15:20 he told his disciples, “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.” And in John 16:33 he warned, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” So followers of Christ should expect and prepare themselves to face opposition because of their faith.
One of the most important principles is that Christians are called to endure persecution patiently and faithfully. They should not retaliate or seek revenge against their persecutors. Jesus set the example during his suffering and crucifixion, as 1 Peter 2:21-23 explains: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” Believers are to follow Christ’s model of entrusting themselves to God even in the midst of unjust suffering.
Christians are also called to bless those who persecute them. Romans 12:14 says to “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” And Jesus said in Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” This demonstrates the love of Christ to persecutors and serves as a powerful testimony. The Apostle Paul wrote that when believers endure persecution well, their “gentleness…will be known to everyone” (Philippians 4:5).
Christians should call upon God for strength and deliverance when facing persecution. The book of Acts describes how the early church prayed for boldness in the face of persecution (Acts 4:29), and Paul wrote that we should cast our anxieties on God because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). Hebrews 4:16 says to “approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” God promises to be with his people and strengthen them in hardship.
Persecution should not cause Christians to doubt or abandon their faith. They can follow the example of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who refused to worship idols even when faced with death, saying, “our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace…But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods” (Daniel 3:17-18). Their faith remained unshaken despite the threat of persecution.
Christians can also find encouragement by remembering they are partakers of Christ’s sufferings. After being flogged for preaching the gospel, the apostles “rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” of Jesus (Acts 5:41). Peter taught that Christians should “rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13). There is a blessing when enduring persecution for Christ’s sake.
In the midst of persecution, believers must continue to preach the gospel and make disciples of all nations. Just before his ascension, Jesus commissioned his followers to take the gospel to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:19-20). And he assured them that despite opposition, the church would prevail: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Persecution should motivate Christians to spread the gospel message far and wide.
When facing persecution, Christians should think of themselves as pilgrims and exiles on this earth. Peter addressed believers as “sojourners and exiles” and encouraged them to “conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile” (1 Peter 1:17). This mindset enables believers to endure hardship and remember that their true home is in heaven. The trials of this life are only temporary.
The Bible praises those who remain faithful through persecution and offers many examples of heroic believers. Hebrews chapter 11 recounts the stories of saints who were mocked, flogged, imprisoned and killed for their faithfulness. Revelation 2 and 3 commends the churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia for remaining strong in the face of persecution. Christians can follow the heroic example of those who endured before them.
One of the greatest testimonies is when Christians love their persecutors and forgive them. Stephen exemplified this as he was being stoned to death, praying, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60). Humbled by his grace, Saul (later Paul) was converted after watching Stephen’s death. The radical love shown in forgiving persecutors can soften even the hardest hearts.
So in summary, Christians facing persecution must remember Jesus’ warnings that suffering would come. They should not retaliate but instead love and pray for their persecutors, trusting God for justice and deliverance. Believers must call upon God’s strength, endure persecution patiently, and continue spreading the gospel message. They can take heart knowing their reward is waiting in heaven. By enduring faithfully through hardship, their testimony will shine brightly to God’s glory.
While persecution of Christians continues today, God promises to be with his people and build his church. Living faithfully despite trials demonstrates the unshakable hope believers have in Christ. The Bible urges Christians to rejoice when they share in Christ’s sufferings, knowing they walk in the footsteps of many heroic saints who endured before them. And their steadfast love and forgiveness can melt even the hardest hearts. Christians throughout the ages have emerged from the fires of persecution with a refined faith, a stronger witness, and an unquenchable passion for advancing the kingdom of God.