Christians around the world are suffering under intense persecution. Christians are being put to death, imprisoned, raped, beaten, driven from home or loosing all their possessions. Why don’t these Christian communities band together and fight against their attackers?
Many Christians facing persecution have no abillity to resist. Even if these believers wanted to fight back their persecutors have prevented them from being able to offer any real resistance. Several Christian groups hold to policies of pacifism. Pacifism is more than refusing to fight in a countries wars. Pacifism is a principle of non-violence against anyone. Those who hold to pacifistic views usually will not fight against anyone who asaults them. Most Christians do not have pacifistic policies but would never view violent self defense as an appropriate response to persecution. This is because of the way the Bible describes the Christian perspective of suffering for Jesus’ sake. Persecution because one is a Christian is different from being the target of a random attack on the street. Many Christian’s would view as acceptable some degree of self-defense against a random assault but would not defend themselves against persecution.
The Bible describes persecution because of righteousness as a source of blessing. “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persectured they the prophets which were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12) The book of Acts shows the apostles praising God because they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ’s sake. The first letter of Peter instructs Christians to be ready to endure persecution and to do so like Christ- with patience, faith and quietness. The book of Revelation also promises rewards for those who endure persecution and it gives several examples of Christians in heaven praising God because they were persecuted for their testimony of Christ. The New Testament view of persecution is that suffering for the testimony of Jesus is something to be patiently endured not fought against. Persecution and death because of the gospel follows in Jesus’ footsteps and brings great reward from God.
The Christian does not fight against his persecutors because of the nature of the gospel. Christianity is not spread, strengthened or protected by violent means. The gospel message is one of total transformation that begins in the heart. Spiritual transformation cannot be achieved by violent means. The gospel does not change hearts by coercion. Sin is not forgiven by force. Christianity is spread by influence and persuasion. Conviction of the heart of man is the means by which the gospel conquers, not by threats and violence.
None of this means the Christian will court persecution. The book of Acts shows many examples of Christians being persecuted and how they responded. These examples offer guidance to any believer facing attacks from those who hate Jesus. Christian’s can and will flee persecution. Christian’s can use legitimate legal means to avoid or halt persecution. Above all else the Christian realizes all persecution and suffering in this world is temporary. Because he is living for eternal reward he will willingly suffer at the hands of men that he might receive the praise of God.