How Do We Respond To Persecution?

After persecution we need to (1) learn how to respond appropriately—without retaliation so that we may be children of our Father who is in heaven; (2) rejoice because we are counted worthy to suffer for Jesus and blessed by God; (3) at all cost, refrain not from boldly living for Jesus.

Respond Appropriately And Don’t Retaliate Inappropriately
Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 6:27-28

  • We are not to retaliate against those who persecute us. The Bible says that we are not to “render evil for evil unto any man” but instead we are to always strive to “follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.” Also, the Bible says, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord,” thus we don’t have to avenge ourselves, but rather leave it to the wrath of God. Jesus and the Apostles help us to understand how we are to appropriately respond to persecution without inappropriately retaliating against it.
    Romans 12:17-19; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10
    • Respond with love. We are to love our enemies—those who hate us and wish to hurt us. God demonstrated His love to us in that while we were His enemies Jesus died for us. Jesus was hated, persecuted and crucified, but He only responded with love.
      Romans 5:7-10
    • Respond with blessings. We are to bless them that curse us. We are not to respond with the same negative manners of speaking that invoke harm and evil to a person, but instead we are to use positive manners of speaking that invoke favor, kindness and ultimately God’s blessings—of which the greatest blessing is to know Jesus.
      Romans 12:14
    • Respond with doing good. We are to do good to them that hate us. We are not to respond with the same kind of great dislike and aversion towards our persecutors, but instead we are to act and behave in a way that treats them well and in a proper manner. Our behavior helps us win people over to Jesus. We should be willing to adapt that we might “by all means save some”.
      Romans 12:20-21; Right behavior helps converts others: 1 Corinthians 9:22; 1 Peter 3:1-2
    • Respond with prayer. We are to pray for them which despitefully use us (verbal abuse) and persecute us (physical abuse). We are not to respond by using verbal or physical abuse, but instead we are to passionately call out to the Lord in prayer. Remember:  before, in the midst of, and after persecution, we are still “on mission”—we desire to see even our persecutors repent and believe in Jesus. Prayer is powerful and we have three strong examples that hep us understand this point: (1) Jesus prayed for those who crucified Him; (2) Stephen prayed for those who stoned him to death. (3) Paul prayed for the Jews who beat him with 39 stripes five times.
      (1) Luke 23:34; (2) Acts 7:60; (3) 2 Corinthians 11:24; Romans 10:1
  • Our motivation to respond appropriately to persecution is so that we are like our Father in Heaven. He is our Father and we are His children—thus we need to act like it. We are to be living the victorious Christian life—a life that is radically being transformed into the very character of God. God, our Father, is a merciful, gracious and good God. He makes the sun to rise on the good and evil. He also sends rain to the just and the unjust. We are to do more good than sinners do. If we only greet other believers and ignore unbelievers, what change has taken place in our lives. There is no reward for loving those who already love you, anyone can do this, but there is reward for loving those who don’t love you. This is a growing process to be more and more like our Father. The standard is to be perfect like God. Thus, persecution and our right response to it helps make us more like Him.

Rejoice Because You Are Counted Worthy And Blessed

  • Respond with rejoicing because you are counted worthy to suffer shame for Jesus’ name. The apostles were arrested and put into prison, but an angel set them free. Then they were arrested again and brought before the authorities to be questioned. They were being persecuted for teaching in Jesus’ name. Peter even taught Jesus to the authorities when they questioned Him. This only made them more mad and they wanted to kill them. But a man named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, stood up and advised them to not kill them. They heeded his advice. So they beat the disciples, charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. After being persecuted, the Bible says that, “They departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” We should rejoice if we are counted worthy.
    Acts 5:17-38; 39-41; Colossians 1:24; 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5
  • Respond with rejoicing because, as a believer, the kingdom of heaven is yours. Blessed are believers who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake—those who receive any form of action that punishes them for being a believer or obeying God’s will. We are blessed when, for Jesus sake, men revile, persecute or says all manner of evil against us falsely. We are blessed because the kingdom of heaven is ours—we will be saved and God rules in our hearts and lives. We can rejoice and be exceeding glad because great is our reward in heaven. Thus, we can rejoice because true happiness is found in a real relationship with God—no matter the cost of obtaining or maintaining it, knowing that one day God will wipe away all tears from our eyes; and there will be no more death, sorrow, crying or pain. Finally, He reminds them that the prophets which were before them were also persecuted, meaning as they experience persecution they will be numbered with the people of God.
    Matthew 5:10-12; Revelation 21:1-4

Refrain Not From Boldly Living For Jesus

  • Respond with boldly preaching and teaching Jesus no matter the cost. Before the disciples were released, they were commanded to not speak in the name of Jesus. But they didn’t allow the persecution they suffered or the fear of future persecution to keep them from obeying God. After they were released, they Bible says, “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”
    Acts 5:42
  • Respond by intentionally, boldly and openly living for and bearing witness of Jesus that all men through this witness might believe. Even though Jesus tells His disciples they will be persecuted, He also tells them they are “the salt of the earth”—meaning as His disciples, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, they should be willing to forsake all, endure persecution and live as peacemakers in the world. Jesus uses another metaphor to further explain this, saying they are “the light of the world”—meaning it is their responsibility as believers to shine the light of the gospel so that unbelievers can see the truth and be saved. Jesus says that a city that is set on a hill can’t be hid nor do people light a candle and put it under a bushel (basket). Finally, He concludes saying, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Thus, this is an unashamed, bold and public witness for Jesus in our words and actions.
    Matthew 5:13-16; Psalm 27:1; Ephesians 5:8-9; Philippians 2:14-15; 1 Peter 2:9, 12; 4:1-2

Review Questions

  • Should believers retaliate to persecution?
  • How should believers respond appropriately to persecution? 
  • What is the believer’s motivation to respond appropriately to persecution?
  • Why should believers rejoice when persecuted?
  • After persecution, should a believer refrain from boldly living for Jesus?

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