8. Handling Persecution

1. WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?

All new ideological and spiritual movements take place in the context of resistance from older political systems and religious traditions. Social conformity to existing established traditions is a human instinct because of our herd nature.

Old and well entrenched religious paradigms; with their petty rules, unchallenged traditions, organised power structures, privileged leaders, pride and doctrinal legalism, are often the most resistant to change. Jesus came up against this seemingly immovable object time and time again in his ministry.

When we take ground from Satan he can’t attack God so he attacks us.

For this reason the Bible says anyone who wants to truly live for Jesus will face some persecution (Matthew 16:24). In Luke 5:33-6:11 we see the new movement that Jesus started very quickly finding itself upsetting local religious leaders. Throughout the Gospels Jesus preached extensively about the power of stale religious traditions to thwart the will of his father, and he made a point of continually confronting them head on (Matthew 23:1-36). Luke chapter five records four examples of this ongoing confrontation that would eventually lead to Jesus’ execution at the hands of the Jewish religious leaders.

Jesus also specifically encouraged those he knew would suffer for him in the future when he said that anyone who has left his or her family for the sake of the Kingdom will receive a very special reward in a new extended circle of a new spiritual family and friends (Mark 10:29-30). Be the answer to this prophecy for those around you who suffer!

The early church suffered persecution continually and tragically, but it actually helped spread the Good News (Acts 8). James and Peter even give the following advice from their own bitter experience (James 1:2, 5:11, 1 Peter 2:19).

2. HOW THE BHOJPURI MOVMENT HANDLES PERSECUTION

Below is some great wisdom in handling persecution gleaned from decades of experience by the great Bhojpuri DMM movement in North India that now numbers over 12 million people. It is a summary of a chapter of the book called The Bhojpuri Breakthrough, by Victor John, its founder. Although its context is the Hindu culture in India, there are lessons for people experiencing persecution in all hostile cultures.

The root cause

“In our Indian experience persecution doesn’t last forever and we do not favour pulling people out of a community when it happens. Persecution often happens because people are not used to a new idea, religion, or group in their midst. It’s like when a new baby arrives, it disturbs the peace but everyone eventually gets used to it. Many of our people have been beaten up, had their property damaged or been jailed. So most of our believers have faced some form of persecution in their Christian walk. Most communities get used to a Christian community in their midst after a while.

Persecution is often part of a sense of nationalistic intolerance and threats to existing power structures. It is born out of Satanic ideologies that try to control humanity. This is a spiritual battle and the church is often the target of these persecutions. The church stands for the poor and downtrodden, justice and equality, so those in power do not like those under them leaving their ideological control system behind. The purpose of the church is to eliminate evil from society. Everywhere it goes the church begins a process of transforming individuals, families, communities and regions. This process will often come into direct conflict with the entrenched evils of those families, communities or regions. It is first and foremost a spiritual battle.

Run or stay?

If a believer runs away from persecution it creates a wall between them and their community that can never be taken away. Persecution often lasts a few days or weeks and dies down. If a believer can persevere then it strengthens them and people begin to accept them and their message, so it’s like a test. We give moral support when we can, but not the same day. Reacting too quickly can produce dependency. Then they would run to us for help at every minor problem. Well-meaning soft heartedness can be its own problem. They are suffering on account of Jesus, not us, so He is the first person they should go to for help. It’s his work not ours and he suffered persecution too so knows their suffering.

We do not encourage our believers to demand their legal rights or to get involved in street demonstrations against persecution. It just makes things worse. Most Indians are oral people and reading rights to them doesn’t get the result it would in the West. We encourage wisdom and self-control.

After the persecution

Once someone has survived persecution they become very bold. Fear is replaced by confidence because that was the best Satan could do and it had no effect. The church then grows much faster. We have also designed a people-centric system of church so that if persecution is widespread and sustained then our communities of faith can go underground and continue to function. We avoid using special buildings, special names and dress codes, lifestyles and traditions that would separate us from the culture we are trying to reach for Jesus. We even did research and found that local Indians often associated Christianity with foreign practices like drinking alcohol, eating meat, changing names and not wearing the red dot on the forehead to signify marriage. We found that when we avoided these practices locals were more interested in our message

Foolishly asking for persecution

Many times persecution is avoidable. If Christians criticise other religions or ideologies they are asking for trouble. Instead of attacking evil or ideologies we encourage people to share the love of Jesus and respect those aspects of the local culture that do not conflict with Christian values. We encourage believers to celebrate events and holidays with their neighbours, and to share their concerns. The stronger the relationship with the local community the less persecution believers will experience. Our goal is complete social regeneration for the Kingdom of God so we try to blend in as much as scripture allows so we can reach the lost.

Persecution is sometimes unavoidable, but rarely does it last. For particularly dangerous areas like Muslim communities we often provide a safe house so that we can protect our workers.”

3. ACTION

  1. If you know someone who has suffered persecution go and find out about their experiences
  2. If you know someone suffering now, be Jesus to them.