June 27, 2011 by Stacy McDonald
Here is my response to the following question, originally asked in my last post, Persecuted…by Christians?
“What does persecution by other Christians look like? In fact, what does persecution itself look like in America? This is a question I have often thought to myself and would be interested in hearing the answer, because I honestly don’t know.
I have had people tell me I was stupid for being a Christian, and even yell at me for being a Christian. I have been told that if the interviewer had known I was a Christian that I wouldn’t have been hired. I never took those things for being persecution – perhaps they were – I don’t know. I never felt it was THAT bad, especially considering what other Christians in other countries have to deal with.”
That’s a good question! I’m certainly not trying to imply that most Americans experience or (hopefully) will ever experience the level of horrifying persecution endured by Believers during “The Great Persecution, or even by those today in Muslim or other heathen countries.
Most of us don’t have to fear being beheaded, beaten, imprisoned, or deal with the dangers that many of our brothers and sisters described in Voice of the Martyrs must face.. We don’t want to minimize their sufferings, as there is surely no comparison.
However, as minor as our “little persecutions” may be, we can certainly gain comfort and encouragement from Scriptures that tell us that, when we attempt to live godly lives, we should expect persecution; or, at the very least, nasty opposition, maltreatment, harassment, bullying, or shunning. (By the way, these are all words that came up as synonyms for persecution.) These types of persecution are real; and it does hurt. More importantly, it often divides the Body of Christ.
Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. For “He who would love life and see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:8-12)
Notice how persecution is defined here:
“To oppress for the holding of a belief or opinion…”
“The act or practice of persecuting especially those who differ in origin, religion, or social outlook.”
“The condition of being persecuted, harassed, or annoyed.”
In my discussions with many, many Christians over the years there are varying levels of “persecution” that Christians suffer – even persecution from family or Christian brothers or sisters who believe differently. Here are a few examples of those who, to varying degrees, were persecuted by those close to them for their “desire to live godly in Christ Jesus”:
- A family who homeschools is labeled “cultish” by their very pro-public school church family, simply because they homeschool. “It’s just “weird” and reclusive to do something so clearly anti-social.” (Obviously, this concept is changing, as homeschooling has become more widely accepted; however, there are many, many homeschooling families who experienced this attitude in their own churches over the years.)
- A wife whose husband openly mocks her convictions, throws her Bible away, won’t allow “Christian” music to be played in the house (he will throw it away if it is left out), purposely plays pornographic films in her presence to upset her, and won’t allow her to have any Christian friends in their home. As long as she is not openly “displaying” the fact that she is a Christian (reading the Bible, using Christ’s name etc.), he is fairly nice to her. Yes, this was a real scenario.
- A woman is labeled a “legalist” by friends at church because she wears skirts (not because she thinks pants are “sinful,” but because she loves the fact that it’s easy to be modest and distinctly feminine in a skirt). She could care less what other people wear.
- A family is treated as “the problem family” because their large family wants to sit together during the church service. The church has an informal rule that children must either be in “children’s church” or the nursery. Even though they have shared their conviction that their children need to hear the Word preached, alongside them, it has been made clear that their children are not welcome in the service. And, because of that, other families treat them as an annoyance.
- A family leaves their fairly conservative church to pursue the “emergent life.” They get tattoos, body piercings etc., and decide their old church was “oppressive” and legalistic (no specifics, they just felt “judged”). They proceed to post derogatory remarks about their old church and old friends on Facebook, blogs, Twitter etc.
- Blogs are set up to “warn” other believers about certain ministries that are “legalistic” or are teaching false doctrines; however, they give no proof of any significant problem. Huge numbers of ministries, pastors, and fellow believers are slandered without any specifics or proof of “false” teaching. No quotes, no links, and no facts are used. Only emotional hyperbole and gossip.
[Note: It is very important to call out a genuine false teacher – someone who is clearly teaching heresy or spreading false doctrines. However, it is crucial that proof is given in the author’s own words, in context, along with the original source of the quote. Otherwise, it is nothing more than tabloid journalism—or gossip.]
Though there are plenty of folks who are falsely accused of legalism today in our liberal, licentious culture, there are also those who are bound up in true legalism. Some of these folks persecute their brothers and sisters in the Lord with slanderous words, shunning, and gossip. For a more in-depth discussion of legalism click HERE.
So, my answer to the original question is that persecution can take many forms. The difference here is that persecution from strangers is different than persecution from brothers and sisters. It is a hurtful, shameful division that should not be (Psalm 133:1, Romans 15:5, Ephesians 4:1–6). However, if you find yourself in this position, it is important to respond biblically.
Be at peace; Jesus is your advocate. And, again, if we indeed want to communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and His righteousness, we will emulate Him (Psalm 145:8-9). We will be attacked without being offended or defensive; we will be misunderstood without becoming sarcastic; we will be falsely accused without retaliating; we will love without being loved in return. Who can do this? No one. Only Jesus in us (1 John 4:4-8).
Even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 1 Peter 3:13–16