“If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” – 1 Peter 4:16
Around the world, many Christians are being persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ. This is especially the case for those living under severe religious restrictions experienced by nearly three-quarters of the world’s population. Just last Sunday, suicide-bomb attacks were launched on three churches in Indonesia’s second-largest city of Surabaya, killing at least 13 people and wounding another 40.
Living in Singapore, it is often easy to forget what religious persecution really looks like, or take for granted the harsh realities faced by our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world. However, studies by Open Doors USA revealed that the persecution of Christians are higher today as compared to any other point in history. Each month, approximately 66 churches are attacked, 225 Christians are killed, 104 are abducted, and 160 Christians detained and imprisoned without trial. The persecution of Christians will likely remain a permanent feature of humanity until Christ comes again.
Even at home, you may face persecution as a result of your declaration of faith. At school, at work, or even among your friends, your faith may be challenged. Those who like you may begin to have second thoughts about you, or see you in a negative light because you believe in Jesus. How then, should we respond to Christian persecution? I suggest three ways to prepare and respond to persecution:
Expect it: Jesus and Paul warned that if we truly desire to live a godly life and follow Christ, then persecution is to be expected (John 15:20, 2 Timothy 3:12). This is because we do not belong to the world but to Christ, and it is that very separation from the world that arouses its animosity. This trial of faith develops an endurance and maturity to strengthen the character of believers (James 1:2-4) to make an impact for the Lord. It is hence no wonder that the spread of the gospel often flourishes in the face of persecution (Acts 1:8 and Acts 8:1). Hence, when persecution comes our way, we should not be surprised. Instead, ask the Lord for the courage to face it, and seek His purposes and wisdom for your specific circumstances. This way, acting on what the Lord impresses upon you will enable His truth and love to be communicated to others even in the most dire of situations.
Lend support: Persecution also provides a direct opportunity for us to show appreciation, support and brotherly love for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ both at home and abroad in a way which we may not have otherwise known. We should view the hardship that our brothers and sisters face with a lens of great resolve to comfort them, and lift them before His throne in prayer. We can also take the initiative to partner with various missions organisations to take action where it matters most, or lend other means of support (i.e. financial or material resources).
Pray and press on: Finally, we can thank the Lord for those we love, and stand with them in their times of distress. Thank Him for His grace and patience with each of us, and ask for the courage to press on even in the face of persecution. We can also pray for those who would accuse or abuse us (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27).
As you read this, would you take a moment to pray for our brothers and sisters in Surabaya? Let us never grow cold or indifferent towards the persecution of Christians that is intensifying around the world.
By Zeke Gao, Deacon (YCKC Bulletin 19&20 May 2018)