Not Every Christian Will Suffer Persecution. Will You?
If you’re alarmed and concerned about how bad the persecution of Christians and the church will get in America in the very near future, you’re showing yourself to be far more astute in understanding the “signs of the time” than most of the professing church today (Matt. 6:33). Why? Because it seems, at least in America, that we have adopted a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” mindset regarding current events and how they may interrupt what we hold most dear: our vacations, our retirement, our free-time, our video games, and our false sense of security in our immature relationship with Christ.
Oh, I’m sorry. Did that last phrase sting a bit? Did it seem somewhat unloving, maybe a little unkind? Good. It shows you’re not completely anesthetized to what is happening all around us. And that’s a good thing. A real good thing.
But to your question: How bad will the persecution really get? Well, that all depends on what kind of Christian you are and what kind of church you attend.
Let me explain.
We Will Not All Be Treated Equally
Not everyone will suffer the same under the coming persecution, just like they didn’t all suffer the same under Nero’s reign of terror during the first century of the church. Nor did all Christians suffer the same under the persecution of the Third Reich. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, for example, was martyred for his faith on Monday, April 9, 1945. But just six days later churches all throughout Germany met in their own church buildings unmolested by the Nazis who murdered Bonhoeffer earlier that week.
How could that be? How could one group of professing Believers suffer persecution at the hands of the Nazis yet another group freely worship with the permission and approval of the persecuting State? How is that possible?
More recently, in September 2015, twelve Christian missionaries, including the 12 year old son of a ministry team leader, were crucified and beheaded near Aleppo, Syria for not renouncing their faith and converting to Islam. If they caved into their fears, as some did, and renounced the Jesus they loved, they would be alive today. But since they “rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41), they died a horrific death. For those twelve, it was more important to obey God and not man (Acts 5:29) and, in doing so, proved the “world was not worthy” of them (Heb. 11:38).
Again, two groups of Believers. One group renounced Jesus and lived and the other remained faithful to Him and died. Both groups were not treated equally. The severity of their persecution, and ours, is always contingent on one’s commitment to Christ. Throughout the history of the church it has always been that way, and it always will.
Soon, in our own country, we will find pastors and true Believers punished for preaching the whole Word of God, especially the Politically Incorrect passages from Romans 1:26-27 that deal with the sin of homosexuality. You heard right, the sin of homosexuality. Those who refuse to compromise on God’s Word regarding sin, even politically protected and government sanctioned sin, will suffer persecution. They will be fined for their faith in Him Who does not change (Mal. 3:6). Many will lose their positions, their life savings, and even their homes for their unwavering faith. They will be marginalized, vilified, mocked and ridiculed, they will be threatened and sued, they will be charged with a hate crime, arrested, and imprisoned for their faith.
And just like in Bonhoeffer’s day, while some are languishing in prison for preaching truth the culture rejects, others will be leading or attending churches deemed “acceptable” and “tolerant” by the very State that persecutes and imprisoned others in the Body of Christ.
What’s the difference? What separates these two groups of Believers?
Simply this: Desire. A desire to live Godly in Christ – no matter the costs.
Those Who Desire and Those Who Don’t
In 2 Timothy 3:12 the Scriptures state, “All who desire to live Godly in Christ will suffer persecution.” Note the condition and the promise. It’s one of the if/then conditions and promises found in Scripture. If you do this or meet this condition, then this will happen.
An if/then condition and promise means if we do our part, if we meet some sort of condition or requirement the Lord has established, then we have the confidence to know God will fulfill what He has promised to do. We see these all throughout the Scriptures. Remember the one from Romans we so often use when we share our faith with others?
If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and (if) you believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, (then) you will be saved (Rom. 10:9).
Now, when it comes to persecution, the Lord gives us another if/then promise. He says, “All who (what) desire to live Godly in Christ will (what) suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12). That’s a promise from the Lord. And that same promise is echoed by Jesus when He tells us not to be surprised, “If the world hates you, you know it hated Me before it hated you” and “If they persecute Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:18, 20).
Let’s look at the if/then condition and promise again:
“All who (if you) desire to live Godly in Christ (then you) will suffer persecution.”
The Condition: “All who (or, make it personal, if you) desire (or, will, wish, want, strive, make it your aim) to live (or, have your existence, your mode or manner of life) Godly (or, devoutly, reverently, obediently) in Christ…”
The Promise: “(again, make it personal, then you) will (or, shall, most certainly) suffer persecution (or, distress, trouble, peril).”
As you can see, not all will suffer the same. The defining characteristic of those who will be persecuted and of those who won’t, will be their innate “desire to live Godly in Christ.” This desire, this longing, this passion to live Godly in Christ no matter the costs, come what may, is the hallmark of a committed Christian’s life. They desire to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). To live as a committed Christian, as a real Christian, is to boldly acknowledge Him before “kings and governors” (Matt. 10:18) and to not count our life as worth anything other than following Him and being faithful to what He has called us to do (Acts 20:24). After all, isn’t that why He saved us in the first place?
When the darkness begins to fall and the persecution of the church becomes impossible to ignore, some Believers and churches will have that great desire to “walk as Jesus walked” (1 John 2:6) and renounce the deeds of darkness in obedience to Him (1 Cor. 4:2). And sadly some, in fact most, won’t. Some will suffer for the sake of their Lord knowing “this world is not their home” (Heb. 13:14) and they are simply blessed to be called ambassadors for Him, the One True King (2 Cor. 5:20). Others will love their life in this world: their status, financial security, their ease and comfort, and will renounce their love for Jesus, in either word or deed, and continue to hold on to the lie of “Your Best Life Now.” They will forsake their inheritance as a child of God (Rom. 8:16) for something far less and faithfully continue with the pageantry and charade of the life of a good Christian while the true Christians are rejoicing in the privilege of suffering for the truth, just like their Lord (Acts 5:41).
The stark difference between these two groups will be apparent to all. Actually, it’s apparent now. Can you tell the difference?
So you see, not all so-called Christians will suffer persecution at the hands of the State or by the hatred of our culture. Some will live in ease and comfort, proudly bringing their Bibles to the approved churches, the ones that proclaim the virtue of tolerance for sin and promote a god created in the image of man. But some will not compromise. They will bend their knee to no one but the Lord Jesus (Rom. 14:10). They will render to Caesar what is Caesar’s but they will not, under any circumstances, render unto Caesar what is God’s (Matt. 22:21).
In which group of persecuted do you find yourself? Are you one of those who will be persecuted for the sake of Christ by desiring, above all else, to live for Him? Or are you one of those who will persecute Jesus and His Church by feigning your loyalty to Him with false spirituality and loving your life in this fallen, perverted world more than you love the Lord? Are you the righteous or the hypocrite? Are you one who cries out, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matt. 21:19). Or will you, surrounded by an angry, Christ-hating mob, shout through your own apathy and indifference, “Give us Barabbas! We have no king but Caesar!”? (John 18:40, 19:15).
Which will it be? You can’t have it both ways, you know. Persecution has a tendency of forcing those it confronts on either one side or the other. Which side will you be on?
Remember, not everyone will be treated the same because of the name of Christ. Only those who truly are His will be willing to endure suffering and persecution. In fact, true Believers will embrace the honor to show the unbelieving world Who they belong to.
Do you belong to Him? And, if so, how do you know?
That’s the very question we’ll look at tomorrow.
For Part 2: Why is the Church in the Situation it is Today?