Anyone who commits to follow Christ is not guaranteed a stormless life, but a stormproof one. The Christian life is never without suffering and hardships. One of the hardships that a Christian goes through is persecution. It is expected that the world will hate us because the world first hated Christ. Those in Christ are in the world, but not of this world. Their real home is in heaven, where their citizenship lies. The persecution that a Christian goes through varies. In some countries, where the locals are hostile to Christians, persecution can be extreme, ranging from executions and imprisonment to beatings, discrimination, and much more. Here in the United States, we are fortunate not to experience such intense persecution. However, Christians do experience persecution, even in this nation. Christians are sometimes discriminated against for their faith, mocked and ridiculed. But the persecution that we experience here is nothing compared to what Christians living in nations hostile to Christianity are experiencing. Non-believers persecute those people because the Gospel that we preach is folly to them. In 1 Corinthians 2:14, the apostle tells us that the natural man (non-believer) does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, which includes the preaching of the Gospel. Those things are folly, and they cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Unless the Holy Spirit regenerates their heart and turns their hearts of stone to hearts of flesh and opens their spiritually blinded eyes, they will be unable to understand the Gospel and see Christ. Another reason Christians are persecuted is that they live their lives differently than non-believers. Christians choose to live a holy life before God. A Christian may be mocked, insulted, and fired from his job for refusing to do that which is evil in the eyes of God. Regardless of those hardships that Christians go through because of their faith, they persevere and endure because of God’s preserving grace.
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
1 Corinthians 2:14
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
2 Timothy 3:12
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
What to do when you are persecuted?
Christ told us what to do if other people persecute us. In Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus tells us to love our enemies and bless those who persecute us. In other words, we ought to love, bless, and pray for those who persecute us. One of the central teachings that Jesus offers is to always respond in love towards others. If we want to obey God, all of the commandments are summarized into two: Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbors as you love yourself. Jesus said that on those two commandments, all the Law and the Prophets depend. Part of loving our neighbors is loving those neighbors or other people who persecute us. That is how Christians make a difference in the world, and continue to act as the salt and light, by not retaliating to whatever harm, mockery, insult, or other persecution others have done to us, but instead responding in mercy, grace, and love. That is what makes Christians different from non-Christians. We don’t only love those who love us, but also those who hate us and persecute us.
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
The same teachings have been repeated in the New Testament letters. In Romans 12:14, the apostle Paul said that we should not curse those who persecute us, but rather bless them. The same thing is what the apostle Peter teaches us in 1 Peter 3:9. Peter tells us that when someone does evil to us, we are not to repay it with evil, but with good. Paul said that when we respond to the evil done to us by doing good, it is like heaping burning coals on their heads.
27 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
1 Thessalonians 5:15
See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.
1 Peter 3:9
Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.
The critical thing to remember here is that we should respond to those who persecute us with love. We show mercy to those who persecute us because we have been recipients of God’s mercy, even if God does not have to show us mercy. While we were still sinners, God showed His love for us by sending His Son, Jesus, who died on the cross for our sins so that in Him we could find eternal life and forgiveness for our sins.
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
How do you pray against your enemies?
Now that we have established the truth and Christ’s command for us to respond in love, grace, and mercy to those who persecute us, we must put it into action by praying for those who persecute us. You can pray for those who persecute you when you spend moments of solitude with God and spend time with the person who persecuted you. That is an excellent opportunity to show love and grace to the person. For example, if someone is mocking you about your faith or insulting you, you can ask the person afterward to pray for him or her. He or she may wonder why you are responding unexpectedly, and that you are not retaliating against him or her. That could even open a door for you to preach the Gospel to that person. You can do this no matter what kind of persecution you encounter. If you ever lose your job for refusing to condone something evil in the sight of God, respond in love, grace, and mercy, and pray for the manager who fired you and bless him or her. That is why Jesus said that for us Christians, it shouldn’t be something like “an eye for an eye,” but rather, if they take our tunic, we are to give them our cloak.
You pray for those who persecute you and pray for their well-being. You can pray for provision upon them, protection and safety, and much more. Remember that God shows common grace to both the just and unjust, a different kind of grace from what Christians receive (Matthew 5:45). For example, if you know that your workmate who is persecuting you is having a hard time at work, you can pray for strength upon him or her as he or she works, so that he or she will be able to solve their problems at work. Praying for those who persecute you is like praying for strangers. You pray for their needs, concerns, or well being, but in the end, your main goal is to redirect their prayer towards Christ. Suppose you have a friend who is not a Christian who is also persecuting you, and he or she is heartbroken for some reason. That is an excellent opportunity to show love and mercy to that person. You can pray for emotional and mental healing upon the person, and then, in the end, you redirect it to the Gospel. Here is an example of how you can pray for those who persecute you:
Father of grace, You are the God who shows grace to us and makes the sun shine on both the just and the unjust. I pray for emotional healing upon [name of the person]. I pray that You will be gracious to him/her and heal him/her of the emotional wounds that he/she has. I thank You because we can find eternal life and forgiveness for our sins in Christ if we repent and commit to following Him. Christ is our living water in whom we shall never thirst. If we are in Christ, we become adopted as Your children and get to have access to Your throne of grace, where we can ask for mercy and help. Thank You, because if we are in Christ, You are the One who comforts us, the God of mercy and comfort who comforts us in times of affliction. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
1 Peter 2:19
For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.
With all the suffering we go through because of persecution, it is sometimes hard to respond in love and mercy towards those who persecute us. However, even if it is hard, we can respond in love and mercy and pray for them through Christ, who strengthens us. In 1 Peter 2:19, the apostle Peter tells us that whenever we suffer unjustly, but do the right and pleasing thing before God, responding in love and mercy and praying for those who persecute us is a gracious thing to do. When we are being persecuted, God knows every wrong that others did to us. He is with us throughout all those sufferings and is the one who comforts you. Also, He is pleased when you don’t respond with retaliation, but with love and prayer for those who persecuted you.