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23 & 24 September 2023 (Pastoral Page) RESPONDING TO PERSECUTIONS

By Asst Ps Patrick Chan Yin


I recently read of the tragic news of fellow Christians being persecuted by some angry Muslim mobs in a Christian colony in Pakistan (https://churchleaders.com/news/458785-voice-of-the-martyrs-muslim-mob-attacks-christian-colony-vom.html). As a result of these violences, churches were burned down, Christian homes were ransacked and destroyed. We should not be surprised that believers would be persecuted. In fact, 1 Peter 4:12-13 reminds us, "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed." The Bible acknowledges that persecution is not a new phenomenon and even encourages us to respond with steadfastness and joy, knowing that our faith is tested. Jesus himself encourages us in Matthew 5:10-12, "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven."


Let me humbly suggest few ways we should respond to persecutions as followers of Christ:


Prayer and Solidarity

We should respond to the persecution of Christians with prayer and solidarity. Matthew 5:44 tells us, "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Prayer is a powerful tool to seek God's intervention and comfort for those facing persecution. So let us stand in the gap and intercede for our brother and sisters in Christ in Pakistan and elsewhere who are suffering because of their faith in Christ.


We should also stand in solidarity with persecuted believers through advocacy, help and support. Thank God we have such organizations like “The Voice of Martyrs” (https://www.persecution.com) whom God has called to come alongside those who are suffering and affected to help and support them in practical ways, with food and shelter. The least we can do on our part is to support these organizations financially, be it monthly or as a one-time gift.


Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a central theme in Christianity. Jesus, while on the cross, forgave those who crucified Him (Luke 23:34). Similarly, we should respond to persecution with forgiveness in our hearts. This does not mean we condone the actions of persecutors but rather release the burden of anger and hatred (to God).


Spreading the Gospel

The Bible encourages us to continue sharing the Gospel despite persecution. Acts 8:4 states, "Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went." Persecution cannot extinguish the light of Christ; instead, it often spreads it further. We have witnessed this in the book of Acts and in church history. The Gospel cannot be stopped.


Love and Compassion

Romans 12:21 teaches, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." In the face of persecution, we should respond with love and compassion, not retaliation. By doing so, we can model the teachings of Christ to those who oppose us; and in the process, be a powerful testimony to the unconditional love of God.


Seeking Refuge

In some cases, seeking refuge and safety may be necessary or be the wisest thing to do. Jesus advised His disciples in Matthew 10:23, "When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another." Prudent measures to protect oneself and fellow believers may be a faithful response. Pray that God will eventually provide a neighbouring safe place for those who are being affected, so that they are being taken care of.


Advocacy

Proverbs 31:8-9 implores us to "speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute." As Christians, we should advocate for the rights and freedoms of persecuted believers, both in our own country and globally. Again, we thank God for organizations such as “The Voice of Martyrs” to provide a ‘voice’ for those being persecuted to be heard and be known.


Faith and Endurance

Hebrews 10:36 encourages us to "persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised." In times of persecution, maintaining faith and endurance is crucial. Remember that God is with us through every trial.


The persecution of Christians is still a painful reality in our world, and it calls for a faithful response. As we encounter persecution, we are reminded of the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:10-12, "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven."


In our response to persecution, let us turn to God’s word for encouragement, guidance and strength. Through prayer, forgiveness, spreading the Gospel, love, seeking refuge, advocacy, and unwavering faith, we can honor our Christian calling even in the face of adversity. As we do so, we exemplify the teachings of Jesus Christ and draw strength from His promise that He will be with us always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).


Lord, have mercy on our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ! 🙏

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