1 John 4:19 NKJV
We love Him because He first loved us.
We love Him because He first loved us.
Jesus. That’s what you need to know. Let me explain.
Many people want to hear stories of the persecuted church, intrigued by the atrocity, the anomaly. They want to know how it is that close to a hundred thousand Christians die each year around the world for their faith. Or they want to know how to pray. Or they think being “informed” will remove their guilt over inaction when it comes to their personal commitment to Jesus or investment in his work overseas.
But what would those actually suffering persecution want us to know? We find the answer in a letter in the Bible, written from a persecuted Christian to a young pastor. Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, tells us what persecuted people would want us to know.
"Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory" (2 Timothy 2:8-10 NIV).
Remember Jesus, Paul says. He doesn’t say, Consider my pain. He definitely would warn against entertaining ourselves with his brutal sufferings. He doesn’t even demand that they remember him in this case.
Remember Jesus, he says. Remember why I am suffering. The “why” behind all Christian persecution is a “Who.”
“This is my gospel”—what is? Jesus. Jesus is the good news Paul is both proclaiming and facing persecution for. This tells us something about Christian persecution. Christians don’t arbitrarily stand by, suffer for, or die for creeds of opinion or personal conviction. We stand by a Person.
We stand by and for the King of kings, who gave his life for rebel sinners like us so that we could know God again.
And we don’t stand by a Jesus nailed to a cross. We stand by a Jesus “raised from the dead”—which says two things. First, that he is God. And second, that he is undefeated. We’re willing to stand by him because he has already proven to us that for all who believe in him, death is just the doorway to eternal life. So for us, to live is Christ—it’s life with him—and to die is gain—it’s eternity with him (Philippians 1:21).
The whole Bible story is about hope for the world, a hope that’s bigger than this life, a hope that’s stronger than the pain we may face. We may be chained up for our faith, but our Savior couldn’t be chained by death itself. He still speaks through our Bibles, by his Holy Spirit. His Word is what saves people; it’s what people most need.
We love Jesus so much that we would endure anything for others to come to know him and love him too. Because we know that a life of knowing God is the only life there really is. What can we gain if we give up our souls (Matthew 16:25-26)? What do we have that’s more precious, more eternal? Jesus came to save that—our souls, our true selves, us. Because God loves people. They’re his priority.
"And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life" (1 John 5:11-12 NIV).
This life is available to all who hear the message about Jesus and believe. It’s eternal life, and it keeps us from perishing eternally in hell apart from the good God that came to save us (John 3:16).
What do you need to know about the persecuted church? Jesus. It’s who all believers live for, it’s who suffering Christians are dying for.
Jesus “who loves us and frees us from our sins by his blood” (Revelation 1:5 NIV).
Jesus, who promises to bring those who trust in him “safely to his heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18 NIV).
Jesus, who “when they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23 NIV).
Jesus, who stands by his people, lives within them, and has promised to be with them always (2 Timothy 4:17; Romans 8:11; Matthew 28:20).
Jesus, who is “near, at the very gates” and “surely coming soon” (Matthew 24:33; Revelation 22:20).
We may be persecuted for holding fast to the words between the covers of our Bibles. But we shall never be torn from its hero who holds us between his hands—not even in death (John 10:28). Him we love most in this life.
Those suffering under persecution would want you to know what they’re suffering for: Jesus. Do you know Jesus?
I tremble because of the sufferings of those persecuted in different lands. I tremble thinking about the eternal destiny of their torturers. I tremble for Western Christians who don't help their persecuted brethren. In the depth of my heart, I would like to keep the beauty of my own vineyard and not be involved in such a huge fight. I would like so much to be somewhere in quietness and rest. But it is not possible... The quietness and rest for which I long would be an escape from reality and dangerous for my soul... The West sleeps and must be awakened to see the plight of the captive nations.See quote source
a godly life
in Christ Jesus
will be persecuted
"Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death."
— The Lord Jesus
"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."
"The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me."
The church is the most important organization in the world. It is the target of every demonic, hostile attack in the universe. Jesus personally guaranteed that the gates of hell will never prevail against the church. He made no guarantee that the gates of hell would not be unleashed against it, however.See quote source
“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.”
"The world is in rebellion against God. It hates God, and when he came as a man in the person of Jesus Christ, the world responded by murdering him. Jesus promised us that the world would treat us the way it treated him."
“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.”
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
Here are the words of a young man who counted Jesus as more precious than his own life. He was martyred for his faith. These were some words he had penned, found among his belongings.
who persecute you;
bless and do not curse.
How did Jesus expect his disciples to react under persecution? (In Matthew 5:12, he said), “Rejoice and be glad!” We are not to retaliate like an unbeliever, nor sulk like a child, nor lick our wounds in self-pity like a dog, nor just grin and bear it like a Stoic, still less pretend we enjoy it like a masochist. What then? We are to rejoice as a Christian should and even “leap for joy” (Luke 6:23).See quote source
If a commission by an earthly king is considered an honor, how can a commission by a Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
If one member suffers,
all suffer together
Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.
Finally, dear brothers and sisters, we ask you to pray for us. Pray that the Lord’s message will spread rapidly and be honored wherever it goes, just as when it came to you. Pray, too, that we will be rescued from wicked and evil people, for not everyone is a believer.
The author of this book famously denied Christ, after promising he would even die for Jesus. He knows how hard it is to stand up for the faith. But witnessing the resurrected Jesus absolutely changed him—and drove out all fear. He writes to Christians suffering under persecution from the Roman Emporer Nero, urging them to persevere with joy. And by the Holy Spirit, he writes to us.