The Persecuted Church
In the year 2016, ninety-thousand Christians around the world have been martyred. So we want to take a closer look at this. Yeshua (Jesus) warns His disciples that the world will hate them. He says in John 15:18, "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you." We want to look at the persecuted church and learn from our Master how we should respond to it.
Matthew writes in chapter 10:22, "And you will be hated by all on account of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved." Persecution comes in many forms, in many ways, and we as believers in Messiah Yeshua must always be light in the darkness. We must always represent who Yeshua is and not succumb to the ways of the world.
In the beatitudes, Yeshua tells us that peacemakers shall be called sons of God. To overcome persecution we must start with the fact that our Master has overcome. John 16:33 says, "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." We can now also overcome if we walk in the footsteps of our Master Yeshua. Paul said, "Follow me as I follow Messiah" (1 Corinthians 11:1). It is always better to walk a path that others have walked because those trailblazers have made a distinct road for all others who would also walk on that path, and if we stay on the path that was paved we will not wander off and get lost.
Yeshua goes on with His warning in John 16:1-4, "These things I have spoken to you, that you may be kept from stumbling. They will make you outcasts from the congregation, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me. But these things I have spoken to you, so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you of them." It is inevitable that persecution will come to all who follow the Master, and it will come to you too. But knowing that we can overcome is half the battle.
Our Master tells us that when we are persecuted for His sake we are blessed. Matthew 5:10-11 says, "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely on account of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
So we see that persecution, as hard as it may be, is a blessing to the believer, for it acknowledges that he is on the right path. So how are we to react when someone insults or persecutes us? Yeshua tells us in Matthew 5:43-48, "You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
The apostle John reiterates Yeshua's words in 1 John 1:9-11, which tells us , "The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes." And again John writes in 1 John 3:13-15, "Do not marvel, brethren, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."
As believers we know that we will have our trials and tribulations and some will even see martyrdom, but we are to always bless and not curse, for our trust and our hope is in our Master Yeshua, for He is the author and finisher of our faith. He has told us that He would never leave us or forsake us. He is the One who said that we will overcome the world because He overcame the world. So when persecution comes (and it will), we must keep our eyes on our Shepherd who leads us to those green pastures and those quiet waters where He resides. He will prepare a table before us in the midst of our enemies where we can eat and drink of Him.
He is our refuge and in Him is our strength and our song. He is our salvation. He will give us the victory. He will fight our battle. He knows better than anyone: just look to the cross. And as we follow in His footsteps, let us be strong and courageous knowing that He has overcome and so can we.