Of course, not everything Christians claim as persecution is really persecution. Yet, it’s not helpful to trivialize marginalization by claiming that “It’s not as bad as what other groups experience.” If every form of oppression is compared to genocide, then everything would be dismissed.
One vivid snapshot of Christian persecution is found in Hebrews 10:33-34. “You endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. You had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.”
In this passage, we find three forms of persecution:
- “reproach” = enduring verbal insults aimed at damaging reputations
- “affliction” = enduring socio-economic oppression (e.g., vandalism, imprisonment)
- “partners” = enduring guilt by association (viewed as accomplices, sympathizers)
How did the early Christians get to the point of joyfully accepting all forms of unjust treatment? The “better, more abiding possession” of the Age to Come had become so real, so palpable to them, they could almost taste it.
“The world into which we shall enter at the coming of Jesus Christ is therefore not another world; it is this world, this heaven, this earth; both … renewed. It is these forests, these fields, these cities, these streets, these people, that will be the scene of redemption. At present they are battlefields, full of the strife and sorrow of the not yet accomplished consummation; then they will be fields of victory, fields of harvest, where out of seed that was sown with tears the everlasting sheaves will be reaped and brought home” (Edward Thurneysen).
You can joyfully accept what comes your way because you know what lies ahead. May you taste the goodness of God’s future in every trial.