Should all Christians expect to be persecuted? -- A conversation with a Friend
I do not usually think about the possibility that I could be persecuted because of my faith in God and Jesus Christ. However, our study of Revelation reminds us that persecution for our faith is a very real possibility, and we are admonished to stand firm in our faith, even to the point of death.
This brought to mind an incident in our Bible study that happened a while back. I think we were still studying Hebrews at the time. The subject of persecution came up, and I made comments that were not well received by some in the class. I said that Jesus told His followers not "if" you are persecuted, but "when" you are persecuted. While I said I do not think about it all the time, I said that I fully expect I could be persecuted for my faith in God and Jesus at some point in my life. I recall that the response to that was that I should not be thinking that way, especially in the United States.
I do not think that there was anything wrong with what I said about possibly being persecuted for my faith at some point or that persecution of Christians could happen in this country.
What are your thoughts?
That’s a great question.
Jesus did tell his disciples that they would experience persecution (e.g., Matt 5:10-11, 44; 10:23; Mark 4:17; John 15:20).
The question then is: Who are the disciples to which he speaks?
Obviously, he was always talking to the Jewish disciples during His earthly ministry.
Then, the question is: Is everything Jesus said to His Jewish disciples during His earthly ministry applicable to all disciples at all times?
I’m convinced the answer is “no.” I think there are numerous things Jesus says to His disciples that only apply to His disciples at other times and places if their situation mimics the original situation in multiple respects.
And this is one such case. It’s not the case that all disciples will suffer persecution because some disciples live in cultures where we don’t get persecuted (and by “persecuted” I mean what they meant back then: getting beaten, imprisoned, losing property, losing business, and even killed). Jesus and the primitive church could not have imagined that there would be a time in the future when Christianity was the legal religion of the Roman Empire! (Not to mention the entire Western world becoming what it has become in its stance toward Christianity)
So, I understand Jesus’s statement to be applied like this: Wherever and whenever disciples live in cultures that oppose the teachings and behavior of Jesus of Nazareth, you will be persecuted.
Of course, this persecution is a very real experience for millions around the world for those who live in cultures where Christianity is not tolerated.
That’s the way I understand it, at least.
David W. Pendergrass, PhD