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A Christian Perspective of Persecution

August 4, 2016

The first epistle of Peter was written to people in trouble. It was written sometime near the persecution of Christians instigated by Nero. This persecution has gone done in infamy. Nero is said to have blamed Christians for the burning of Rome and set about to punish them for the crime. The historian Tacitus records that many Christians were arrested and convicted. Their conviction was not for the crime of burning the city but of “hating the human race” (Annals Book XI). Christians were sown into animals skins to be attacked by dogs. Some were crucified- Peter was put crucified during this period of persecution. Others were burnt at the stake to provide outdoor lighting for nighttime activities. Peter writes this letter to CHristians, probably Jewish Christians, who had fled their home to escape the immediate threat. However, they did not escape all suffering. Wherever they went they were met with some degree of persecution. The letter to the refugees scattered throughout Asia Minor is God’s instruction to Christians on how to endure persecution. Each of the first four chapters deals specifically with how the Christian should live in the face of a variety of troubles for Christ’s sake.

It seems that American Christian’s are fast approaching a time in which they will have to decide betweenbeing faithful to Jesus or suffering official sanction. Not every negative thing that happens to a Christian can rightly be called persecution. Being ignored or patronized by the world is not persecution. Losing influence in government or the community is not persecution. Persecution is the threat of violent repurcussions if one does not stop proclaiming God’s truth. Persecution is the response of violence to one who speaks Divine truth. The Bible specifically describes persecution as vicious words against a person (reviling), the loss of possessions, employment or home, being driven out of a community, imprisonment, physical assaults or execution. (verses with each one). Some in America have lost jobs or face the real prospect of losing jobs. Some in America have endured violent verbal assaults for Christ’s sake. The likelihood is that these things will continue to escalate. When they do, how should Christians respond? 1 Peter gives several key thoughts to guide our thinking about persecution:

  • The Christian ought not think persecution a strange or unexpected happening
  • The gospel is greater than any suffering the Christian faces.
  • The eternal joy of salvation is infinitely greater than the sorrow of persecution.
  • Persecution is painful but can be rejoiced in because it produces praise to God and perfection in the Christian
  • Despite persecution live a life that imitates Jesus and reflects the Christian’s love
  • Never respond to evil with evil
  • Respond in a way that promotes the gospel and furthers the praise of God
  • Care for your fellow Christian’s physical and spiritual well being
  • Those who reject and persecute you first rejected Jesus and persecute Him
  • You have been called to follow Jesus in all ways, including imitating His suffering
  • The government may afflict you but you must honor and obey your God appointed authorities
  • As you suffer entrust the well being of your soul into hands of God. Your soul is far more valuable than your possessions or your life
  • God will judge the wicked for their persecution of His children
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