Among other things, hatred, hardship and hostility have beaten against the people of God throughout history. The Bible makes it clear that in the Christian life these things are inescapable on this side of glory. Way back in Genesis 4 we learn about the hatred Cain displayed towards his brother Abel. This hatred led to the murder of his very own brother. Why did he do this? John tells us that it is “because his deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous” (1 John 3:12).
Satan always fuelled hatred towards the people of God in all sorts of cunning ways. Seven times in John 15:18-24 Jesus warned His disciples’ concerning the hatred that they will receive. Believers in Melbourne will no doubt face different levels of hatred to believers in Mosul, as will be the case with believers in Sydney compared with believers in Syria. But the reality that the Lord makes clear in this passage is that hostility will beat against His people as they live in this world. This will come as a shock to many because they have been spoon fed “Christianity light” which ignores the biblical call to salvation and the cost of following Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). To love and follow Jesus Christ carries with it the greatest of rewards, but as John Calvin rightly said, “there is no crown without a cross”. I am disgusted by false teachings like the “Prosperity Gospel” which teach nothing more than Satanic dribble. Those who go around propagating the health and wealth gospel are not true servants of Christ but rather are deceivers.
For us who live in parts of the world where hostility towards the people of God isn’t at the levels seen in other parts of the world, we can very easily forget about the pain and wickedness of persecution. It is estimated that around 180 Christians are murdered for their faith in Christ every month. As noted earlier, persecution and hatred towards God’s people occurs at varying levels. Some are faced with the daily threat and fear of physical violence, poverty, rape, prison and even death. This is horrible and as the people of God this ought to grieve us.
As Christians we are a part of the body of Christ, which means whatever happens to our bothers and sisters in Christ ought to concern us. The writer to the Hebrews said,
“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body” (Heb. 13:3).
What can we do? Here are some practical suggestions:
If you are a believer, no matter who you are or where you are you can pray for your brothers and sisters that are suffering at the hands of persecution. There are so many things we can prayer for, but here are a few examples: Pray that God would strengthen their faith in Him. Pray for their faithfulness to Christ in hardship (Rev. 2:10). Pray for their deliverance. Pray for their families.
Give to to those faithful ministries that provide piratical aid and support to persecuted Christians. Those undergoing the firery furnace of persecution often lose so much. Many are hungry, without shelter and experiencing extreme poverty. Church congregations have their building destroyed and are left without a place to corporately worship. We can give of our finances to help support and provide aid and assistance to trusted ministries. Our church takes up special offerings a number of times the year and gives this to provide practical aid to the persecuted church.
Perhaps you are in a place where you personally can show practical support to a suffering brother or sister. Provide them shelter, give them food, build them up with Christian fellowship. If you are in a place in which this might not be a possibility, you can write letters to those imprisoned for the sake of the gospel.
Whatever shape or form it may take, we as the people of God are to be concerned for our brothers and sisters. Let us not be taken by surprise when persecution comes, the Lord Jesus Christ said it would happen. The world hated Him and it will be show hostility towards those who genuinely love Him. Satan will continue to rage against the people of God until Christ returns (cf. Revelation 12). Let us be sensitive to this and remember those who suffer for the cause of Christ.
For those desiring to give to help provide aid or to receive updates on the persecuted church here is a recommended ministry:
BARNABAS FUND – hope and aid for the persecuted church