How The Bible Answers The Problem of Persecution

Pastor DaronCrossLife Blog

Over 260 million Christians live in places where they are oppressed by high levels of persecution. In the last year, almost 3,000 Christians were killed because they believe in Jesus. 9,488 churches or other religious buildings were attacked. And 3,711 believers detained without trial, arrested, sentenced or imprisoned.

In America, we are challenged by western secularism which opposes Christianity with a different kind of persecution, often more subtle. You experience it without noticing it. But not always.

Nominees for high level government positions—who are Christians—get raked over the coals and made to look like fools by their peers and the media.

Teachers and professors marginalize and mock Christian students.

TV networks and media powerhouses like Google and YouTube refuse Christian advertising, for example, a pro-life TV ad that Fox Sports refused to run during the Super Bowl this year.

Why would God allow persecution?

The reality and intensity of persecution hit hard in the New Testament Christian church, beginning with John the Baptist and Jesus. It is nothing new.

But why would God—who is holy and powerful and once sent a worldwide flood to punish wickedness—not crush all persecution before it starts? Because he uses it to serve his divine purposes and promises.

God used the cross that crucified his own Son Jesus Christ for the salvation of the world!

Those who converted to Christianity during the decades after Jesus ascended into heaven were opposed by the Jews and Romans, too. Persecution was real, and the apostle Paul—who knew both sides—addressed it in his letters to the believers in Thessalonica.

What does the Bible say about persecution?

You might be surprised to see that in 1 and 2 Thessalonians, as well as the other epistles of the New Testament, the direct categorization of persecution, naming it, describing it and deploring it, takes up little space. Here is how the Bible answers the problem of persecution.

By God’s direction, the Bible leaves room for something more significant. Not the problem, but the answer. The New Testament inspired writers address what they believe is more important than persecution itself. The peace that God promises for the persecuted.

This peace is assured because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Persecuted himself, he died (even for his persecutors) and then won the victory over all sin and evil (including persecution).

So, take 1 and 2 Thessalonians for example. Paul mentions opposition and persecution, briefly, in these letters. But he ensures believers that opposition and persecution never happen outside the promises of peace that God gives. Never.

How does Paul do this? By opening and closing each of the two letters with promises of God’s peace. Paul creates bookends in each book, enclosing everything else in the book within them. He’s telling us that God’s peace encompasses all circumstances, even persecution.

  • “To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you” (1 Thessalonians 1:1). 
  • “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
  • “Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:2). 
  • “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you” (2 Thessalonians 3:16). 

Prayer

Dear God of peace, when persecutions come, I can forget about your peace. Or I doubt that it will help. When I experience pain because of my faith, magnify your peace for me. Keep me and those I love safe, and in the faith. Amen.

Further Meditation

Spend time meditating on the four verses shared above. What does each of them say about the peace of God?