Among other things, hatred, hardship and hostility have beaten against the people of God throughout history. The Bible makes it clear that in the Christian life these things are inescapable on this side of glory. Way back in we learn about the hatred Cain displayed towards his brother Abel. This hatred led to the murder of his very own brother. Why did he do this? John tells us that it is “because his deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous” ().
Satan always fuelled hatred towards the people of God in all sorts of cunning ways. Seven times in Jesus warned His disciples’ concerning the hatred that they will receive. Believers in Melbourne will no doubt face different levels of hatred to believers in Mosul, as will be the case with believers in Sydney compared with believers in Syria. But the reality that the Lord makes clear in this passage is that hostility will beat against His people as they live in this world. This will come as a shock to many because they have been spoon fed “Christianity light” which ignores the biblical call to salvation and the cost of following Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (). To love and follow Jesus Christ carries with it the greatest of rewards, but as John Calvin rightly said, “there is no crown without a cross”. I am disgusted by false teachings like the “Prosperity Gospel” which teach nothing more than Satanic dribble. Those who go around propagating the health and wealth gospel are not true servants of Christ but rather are deceivers.
For us who live in parts of the world where hostility towards the people of God isn’t at the levels seen in other parts of the world, we can very easily forget about the pain and wickedness of persecution. It is estimated that around 180 Christians are murdered for their faith in Christ every month. As noted earlier, persecution and hatred towards God’s people occurs at varying levels. Some are faced with the daily threat and fear of physical violence, poverty, rape, prison and even death. This is horrible and as the people of God this ought to grieve us.
As Christians we are a part of the body of Christ, which means whatever happens to our bothers and sisters in Christ ought to concern us. The writer to the Hebrews said,
What can we do? Here are some practical suggestions:
If you are a believer, no matter who you are or where you are you can pray for your brothers and sisters that are suffering at the hands of persecution. There are so many things we can prayer for, but here are a few examples: Pray that God would strengthen their faith in Him. Pray for their faithfulness to Christ in hardship (). Pray for their deliverance. Pray for their families.
Give to to those faithful ministries that provide piratical aid and support to persecuted Christians. Those undergoing the firery furnace of persecution often lose so much. Many are hungry, without shelter and experiencing extreme poverty. Church congregations have their building destroyed and are left without a place to corporately worship. We can give of our finances to help support and provide aid and assistance to trusted ministries. Our church takes up special offerings a number of times the year and gives this to provide practical aid to the persecuted church.
Perhaps you are in a place where you personally can show practical support to a suffering brother or sister. Provide them shelter, give them food, build them up with Christian fellowship. If you are in a place in which this might not be a possibility, you can write letters to those imprisoned for the sake of the gospel.
Whatever shape or form it may take, we as the people of God are to be concerned for our brothers and sisters. Let us not be taken by surprise when persecution comes, the Lord Jesus Christ said it would happen. The world hated Him and it will be show hostility towards those who genuinely love Him. Satan will continue to rage against the people of God until Christ returns (cf. ). Let us be sensitive to this and remember those who suffer for the cause of Christ.
For those desiring to give to help provide aid or to receive updates on the persecuted church here is a recommended ministry:
BARNABAS FUND – hope and aid for the persecuted church
4:1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” 2 And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. 3 In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
8 Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. 16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
17 Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. 18 To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech. 19 And Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. 20 Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. 22 Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.
23 Lamech said to his wives:
“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for striking me.
24 If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold,
then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.”
25 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.” 26 To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.
12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father.
23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.
10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.
12:1 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2 She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. 3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. 5 She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.
7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”
13 And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. 14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. 15 The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. 16 But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. 17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea.