If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. – Jesus (John 15:20)
Oh, how the news of the past few weeks have amplified the truth of Jesus’ words. In Louisiana, 3 historic Black churches were set ablaze. Then in Sri Lanka, 6 bombings targeted Christians as they celebrated Easter; 359 people were killed, and another 500 injured.
How should we respond when Christians are targets of hate crimes and persecution?
Pray for the Persecuted
It’s easy to see sad news, say a quick prayer, and move on without our hearts being truly affected. We must remember that the Christians suffering right now are our family—brothers and sisters in Christ who are deeply suffering. They are mourning the loss of loved ones. They are hurting in hospitable beds. They are being crashed with waves of fear and heartache. And though we might be far away from them, we can intercede before the Father who is near.
God is a refuge and strength and ever-present help in trouble. He is close to the broken-hearted. He promises blessing to those persecuted for His sake. Pray that our brothers and sisters feel that right now. Pray that their awareness of His love would be greater than their loss. Pray that His strength would be greater than their fear. Pray that His comfort would be deeper than their sorrow. Pray that He empowers them to forgive their persecutors, and that He does mighty works in them and through their suffering.
Pray for the Persecutors
When we hear of wickedness like this, it’s a good and godly emotion to feel anger. God is angry too. God hates injustice. He hates violence. He hates murder. He hates racism. And God never sins, so if He gets angry about these things, we can too. But God also loves mercy, and He made a way to execute justice and mercy at the cross. It is because of Jesus’s reconciling work that nobody is irredeemable.
Saul was a persecutor. He watched with approval when Stephen, the first martyr, was stoned to death. He was hell-bent on ravaging the church and did so with passion. It was on Saul’s journey to hunt down Christians that Jesus unexpectedly intervened and turned him into one. In the way that only Jesus can, He transformed one of the greatest opponents of the Gospel into one of its boldest proclaimers.
So when your heart wells up in anger against perpetrators of evil (as it should), pray for their salvation! Jesus endured the just wrath of God so that sinners like them—like us all—could be saved.
Pray for the Church to Be Bold
In Acts, the persecution of Christians led to the growth of the Church. Christians were scattered, but they kept preaching. They were imprisoned, but they kept preaching. They were scared, but they kept preaching.
So pray that those who have suffered persecution would keep preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ. And pray that those of us who’ve been shielded from persecution would grow in our passion to spread the Gospel. God is still seeking, still saving, still redeeming, still restoring. He has the power to turn enemies into friends and foes into family.
His work isn’t finished, and we must keep praying and preaching until it is.