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How Christians Should Respond to Persecution

As I’ve read through Dr. Richard Lints’ ingenious collection of essays on Christian culture, I’ve seen glimpses of a tide that has been changing for a long time—American Christians will increasingly be subject to persecution. The little article last week in the New York Daily regarding the southern Baptist “proselytizers who love our free parks” only barely scratches the surface.

I’ve also heard a lot of dismissal of biblical principles in responding to persecution over the years: “Yeah, that’s all fine, but what do you want me to tell the kid who’s being bullied on the playground?”

In light of this, I’ve been thinking about a Christian response to persecution, and from what I can gather, these five principles apply:

1. Listen.

Before jumping to conclusions about being ‘persecuted,’ take a moment and listen to what your accusers are saying. Is there truth in it? Is there a way to respond by showing Christian humility and apologizing? 

Don’t automatically assume that every negative remark is from the devil. Turn your critics into coaches. 

”Know this, my beloved brothers: Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” James 1:19

2. Love.

As much as we cringe at this one, it’s so clear in the Bible I don’t think the trickiest exegete could scoot around it (I have heard pastors say “turning the other cheek” was an insult. Right, because Jesus had to teach people to insult their enemies … ).

We are to love our enemies. When they speak negatively of us, we’re to speak kindly of them. When they steal our stapler, we’re to give them our roll of tape as well.

Charles Spurgeon compares this kind of love to a hot anvil that molds the metal that pounds it—show people that your worth is in Jesus by responding in radical love.

“And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.” Matthew 5:40

3. Lift.

One of the other explicit commands when dealing with persecution is to lift our enemies in prayer. I might go so far as to say #2 isn’t possible without intense prayer.

Tell the Lord the situation, your feelings about it, your request for it to end, but then trust Him for ultimate justice. He’s better at it than you are, so take your dignity and entrust it to Him.

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Nicholas McDonald is husband to lovely Brenna, father to Owen and Caleb, M.Div student at Gordon Conwell Theological seminary and youth/assistant teaching pastor at Carlisle Congregational Church. He graduated with his Bachelors in Communication from Olivet Nazarene University, studied literature and creative writing at Oxford University, and has spoken internationally at camps, youth retreats, graduations, etc. He blogs about writing, preaching and the arts at www.Scribblepreach.com, which has been featured on The Gospel Coalition, Knowlovelive.org and Challies.com. He currently resides in South Hamilton, MA.