Most Christians I know today in America have never experienced biblical persecution. They may have to endure disagreement with unbelievers, but that is not biblical persecution. Most Christians I know live in nice houses, drive nice cars, have good jobs, and take annual vacations. We all have it pretty good.
Pastor Kevin DeYoung represents the standard view of the modern church with regard to the present and future expectation of Christian persecution. (Four Thoughts on Persecution in America). However, I have been silent too long. It’s time to post a contra-view. Consider the following.
- As Pastor DeYoung rightly suggests, the examples of “persecution” in the Bible refer to acts of violence toward Christians such as arrest, imprisonment, and even death. I would include a loss of employment and being ostracized by a particular community. Certainly, it can refer to pure hatred.
- Pastor DeYoung quotes from the books of John and Timothy.
John 15:20: “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.”
2 Timothy 3:12: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
As Pastor DeYoung intimates, John 15:20 is spoken specifically to the Apostles – not to the church as a whole. I would also add that 2 Timothy 3:12 is spoken in the context of the “last days” (2 Tim. 3:1) of Israel before its destruction by the Romans in A.D. 70. Timothy speaks of persecution at the hands of men like Jannes’ and Jambres’ who “will not make further progress, for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes’ and Jambres’ folly was also.” This persecution was of a limited duration. This is the context of 2 Timothy 3:12.
- Yes, the entirety of the Bible is inspired by God, but the early church was a seed church in transition under persecution. References to persecution should be expected. It does not represent a mature church where the influence of the Christian faith permeates every part of culture. It does not represent a nation where the leaders of both the church and state think Christ’s thoughts after him. There is a big difference.
I remember in the 1950s and 60s when clergymen always received a discount at the local clothing store just because they were ministers. Clergymen and Christians were regarded with high esteem in the community. It was not a time of persecution. It was a time of respect and admiration of the church. We all need to talk more to old people. We might become wiser.
- Most Christians I know today in America have never experienced biblical persecution. They may have to endure disagreement with unbelievers, but that is not biblical persecution. Most Christians I know live in nice houses, drive nice cars, have good jobs, and take annual vacations. We all have it pretty good.
- As Christians become more pietistic and lose their influence in the culture around them, indeed they should expect persecution to return. When the law of God fails to become the standard for all of life, including the civil magistrate, then persecution of Christians will ultimately follow. However, it is not inevitable. It is not part of God’s revealed will for every generation. If persecution comes, it will be because the church in our generation has failed to capture our culture under the banner of Christ.
Larry E. Ball is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is now a CPA. He lives in Kingsport, Tennessee.
© 2017 The Aquila Report