The persecution of a Christian refers to hostility and ill-treatment that is undeserved and s/he has to endure simply because of his or her relationship with God.
Your accuser determines that you are at fault, s/he knows what your punishment ought to be but when we investigate carefully, we cannot find any basis for assigning this fault to you.
When we are persecuted as Christians, we should not lose heart. We should draw comfort from knowing that Christ, our ultimate example, suffered persecution also, and was persecuted even to the point of death, all for no wrong done.
Jesus was arrested for inciting others to go against the established beliefs of the people (Luke 23: 1-2, 5). In Luke 23:23, we see that his accusers continued to insist that he must be put to death. The punishment was clear but the offence was not. Even more surprising is the fact that in Luke 23: 18, the accusers asked that Barabbas, a murderer be released into their community while Jesus would go on to be crucified. In verses 4, 13-15 and 22 of Luke 23, the Bible records that after careful investigation, no basis was found for the charge that was brought against Jesus.
Luke 23: 4- Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, “I find no fault in this man.”
The great apostle, Paul, was also persecuted for his beliefs and his teachings.
Acts 28: 17-20- 17Three days later he called together the local Jewish leaders. When they had assembled, Paul said to them: “My brothers, although I have done NOTHING against our people or against the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. 18They examined me and wanted to release me, BECAUSE I WAS NOT GUILTY OF ANY CRIME DESERVING DEATH. 19The Jews objected, so I was compelled to make an appeal to Caesar. I certainly did not intend to bring any charge against my own people. 20For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. IT IS BECAUSE OF THE HOPE OF ISRAEL THAT I AM BOUND WITH THIS CHAIN.”
When Paul went around persecuting Christians, he was not a threat to his accusers (Acts 8: 1-2). Once he joined the camp of people preaching Christ, he became their enemy. To learn the details of Paul’s ordeal, you may read from Acts Chapters 21- 26. His story is similar to Christ’s in that the offence was unclear, the accusers had determined that the appropriate punishment was death but on investigation, it was found that no wrong had been done.
When you suffer persecution as a Christian, what should you do?
1.Confirm that this is truly persecution and that there is no fault on your part. This is important because it will determine your response to the accusations.
We have established that it is persecution only if no wrong has been done. If it is persecution, you should watch and wait it out, it will fizzle out like the case against Paul did. Even if it leads to death as in Jesus’ case, you should understand that these accusers can only kill the body but not the soul (Matthew 10:28), and you will go on and reign with Christ.
If you have done wrong however, it is not persecution, and you need to fix the issue that you are being confronted on account of.
A few weeks back, my daughter had advice for me. If I want to be the best mummy ever, there are 3 things I must do. I must never blame her or scold her, and I must stop shouting at her. My response to her was, “Do the right thing and I will no longer have to blame, scold or shout at you. That makes sense, doesn’t it? If I want to send you to bed at night, and I can make that happen by saying it just once, why would I need to shout?”
In 1 Timothy 5:7, while starting to teach how the church should handle the welfare of widows, Paul writes, “Give these instructions to the believers so that they will not be open to blame.” If you live according to the instructions in the Bible, you will be above blame or reproach. In other words, your good judgment would win you favour (Proverbs 13: 15). You may still be persecuted and wrongly accused by others but no well-meaning Christian would ever approach you to give unnecessary advice.
Pastor TD Jakes talks about the 3 types of friends: the confidants, the constituents and the comrades. The confidants love you, the constituents love what you love (e.g. a common love for football) while the comrades hate what you hate (e.g. when you and someone unite against a common enemy). The confidants are the true friends, they are into you, they care about your welfare, your life’s journey and your destination. If you go wrong, a confidant would get in your face, confront you and insist that you make amends to ensure that you reach your potential. They may sometimes be a nuisance to you but it is all because they love you too much to leave you the way you are. There are times when you have received advice, you thought the bearer of the advice had only been picking on you but his/ her motive was purely love. We need to prayerfully consider and discern all of these situations accurately so that we can take the right steps in addressing the issues.
2.If it is truly persecution, you should count it all joy. In James 1:2, the Bible admonishes us to count it all joy when we fall into various trials, knowing this, that the trying of our faith produces patience, and if patience is allowed to run its course, we can be perfect and entire, lacking nothing. Persecution tries our faith, the trying of our faith is ultimately useful to our growth and development as Christians, and we should cooperate with that process.
3.If it is persecution, you should bless your accusers. Romans 12:14-21: Bless them that persecute you, do not give evil in exchange for evil, give good instead, do all you can to live at peace with your accusers, knowing that vengeance is God’s and He will repay.