Matthew 5: KJV
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Corrie Ten Boom
Corrie Ten Boom was a middle aged woman living in Holland. She was single and lived with her elderly father and older sister. They were a family of devout Christians. When their country was conquered by Nazi Germany in 1940, things began to change quickly in hometown. Their jewish neighbors began to be arrested and sent to die in German concentration camps. Seeing their plight, Corrie and her family decided they had to help them.
They built a secret room in their house and began hiding Jewish people in their home. Whenever they found Jewish people who were under threat, they were invited to hide in their secret room. They stayed there until they could arrange for them to be secretly taken out of city to hide in the countryside. Through the years of the war, Corrie Ten Boom and her family saved hundreds of jewish people.
Near the end of the war in 1944, the Nazi’s discovered that Corrie and her family were helping the Jews. They were all arrested and taken to a prison in Holland. Her elderly father died only a week after they were arrested. Corrie and her sister Betsy were sent to a concentration camp in Germany. They worked day and night, they were beaten, given little food, slept on wooden planks, and forced to stand outside at attention in freezing conditions for hours.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.Matthew 5:12
After a few months in the concentration camp, Betsy died. Corrie was alone. Before she died, Betsy had a dream that both her and Corrie would be set free from the camp. One week after Betsy died, Corrie was summoned to the camp office. Expecting to die like her sister, she was surprised to learn she was being set free and given a free train ride back to her home in Holland. After the war, she learned that her release from the concentration camp was a paperwork mistake, and in the weeks after she was set free, all the other women in her barracks were executed. Corrie was the only survivor.
Corrie endured incredible persecution from the world around her. All because she had dared to show the love of God to people who the Nazi’s hated. Her case is an extreme example of the persecution which children of God can suffer in this world for simply seeking to be like Christ.
You Are The Light of the World
Enduring persecution can be a hard and difficult thing. The normal human response to persecution is anger, bitterness, resentment, and a desire for revenge. But Jesus showed us a higher example. Although we may be faced with those natural responses, Christ can strengthen us to rise above. The apostle Paul explained that enduring persecution offers a unique opportunity to be a witness of Jesus.
When Corrie Ten Boom returned to Holland, she rested and recovered from her time in the concentration camp. A she reflected on the persecution she suffered, she was moved by her situation to return to Germany when the war was over and share the gospel with German people. She even transformed a concentration camp into a center to share the gospel to help the German people.
Corrie was able to use her time in the concentration camp as a testimony to minister to the very people who persecuted her. Seeing the love and strength God had given her was a powerful witness to the former Nazis and many repented of their deeds and gave their hearts to Christ. Because of Corrie’s work sharing the gospel, the hearts of many people were turned to Christ, rather than continuing another generation of a hateful ideology.
In the later years of her life, Corrie traveled the world speaking about her great persecution and how Christ was with her to protect her and deliver her. She shared how with time Christ helped her to forgive those who killed her family, and how Christ went on to free her from hate, and restore and strengthen the love in her heart. Thousands of souls have been positively impacted by the testimony of Corrie Ten Boom, all because of the persecution she had endured.
Let Your Light Shine Before Men
In the midst of adversity and persecution, we may face great distress. Paul talked about facing a deep emotional despair in the midst of his greatest persecutions. (2 Cor 1:8) Like Paul, we may face moments of despair in times of persecution, but remembering the reward that awaits us in glory, and knowing nothing can separate us from the love of God, and realizing that our tribulation today will not last forever, can help us through our days of despair.
During her time in the concentration camp, Corrie came to understand Jesus in a deeper way. Upon entering the camp, she was forced to strip her clothes and enter naked. She was horrified and cried out in her spirit. Then suddenly she remembered that Jesus had been naked when he hung on the cross, and she understood for the first time the shame he felt.
If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.John 15:20
The apostle Paul shared a list of the many persecutions he faced, but he concluded by saying it was worth it so that he could know the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. (Phil 3:10) In our moments of suffering at the hands of our persecutors, we can realize through our own experience the sufferings of Jesus.
Like Paul, or like Corrie Ten Boom, our testimony can be a great witness to the power of God, when we reach the other side of persecution. Like Stephen, it is possible that our very persecutors may accept Christ by witnessing our response to their persecution. (Acts 7:59, 9:5)
Just because someone rejects the gospel today does not mean they will reject it tomorrow. Just because someone does not believe today, does not mean they will not believe tomorrow. On the cross, the thief by Jesus side was mocking him. But only moments later he repented and then he was promised life eternal by Christ. The dying thief saw something in the suffering of Jesus that caused him to repent. That is a witness to us that, when the love of God abounds in our hearts, even during the midst of persecution, it can open the eyes of our neighbors.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.Romans 12:21
When we are persecuted, we don’t need to respond by foaming at the mouth, making vicious attacks, or spreading hateful lies. Leave that to our persecutors. The children of God are not attracted by that kind of behavior, the true children of God are repulsed by it. Instead, seek to exemplify Christ. The way to fight lies is with the truth, and the truth will always win.
The Cruel Pharisees
In the pages of the bible, we read that the greatest persecution was carried out by religious people seeking to destroy the true believers. It was the cruel Pharisees who orchestrated the death of Jesus Christ and accused him to the Romans. It was the same Pharisees who brutally stoned Stephen to death and had the apostle James beheaded. It was their legalistic faction that was quick to persecute Paul, and to stir up mobs of angry people to stone and murder him on his missionary journeys.
Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers.Acts 7:52 – Stephen speaking to the religious leaders in Jerusalem
The bible shows us that serving Christ, showing love, and telling the truth are enough to turn many against us. But we never need to be afraid of the truth. And when we speak the in love, it will open the eyes of the blind and lead the lost to Christ.
When Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, And Jesus said, “I have come to tell world the truth.” Pilate interrupted him, and didn’t even bother to listen to the truth that Jesus was going to share with him. He as Jesus, “What is truth?” But Pilate didn’t care about finding out what the truth was. He didn’t even let Jesus explain. And when the truth gets in the way of wicked men, persecution is soon to follow. (John 18:38)
Comfort of the Scriptures
The scripture can offer us comfort during times of persecution. In one story, Jeremiah was sent by God to warn Jerusalem that its inhabitants would be destroyed because they had perverted the worship of God. But rather than repent, the priests threw him up in a pit to die because he told them the truth. Suffering in the pit, just about to go sink under the mud, a chord was let down and Jeremiah at the last minute. (Jeremiah 38)
In another bible story, Paul and Silas beaten and chained in jail began to sing the praises of God. The jail soon started shaking, the power of God set them free. Then through their testimony their jailer came to salvation. (Acts 16)
Looking to the testimonies of the saints who have gone before us and seeing how God moved on their behalf in their hour of persecution can give us comfort and confidence to walk on with Jesus.
Don’t underestimate what good can come from your hour of persecution. At times your whole community may be moved against you for the sake of the gospel. But persevere, show forth the praises of God, and show them Jesus Christ. And as you do, know that you have a great reward waiting for you in heaven.
Living For Jesus: A Prayer of the Puritans
Thy name is excellent,
thy glory high,
thy compassions unfailing,
thy condescension wonderful,
they mercy tender.
I bless thee for the discoveries, invitations, promises of the gospel,
for in them is pardon for rebels,
liberty for captives,
health for the sick,
salvation for the lost.
I come to thee in thy beloved name of Jesus,
re-impress thy image upon my soul;
Raise me above the smiles and frowns of the world,
regarding it as a light thing to be judged by men.
May thy approbation be my only aim,
thy Word my only rule.
Make me to abhor that which grieves thy Holy Spirit,
to suspect the consolations of worldly nature,
to shun a careless way of life,
to reprove evil,
to instruct with meekness those who oppose me,
to be gentle and patient towards all men,
to be not only a professor but an example of the gospel,
displaying in every relation, office, and condition
its excellency, loveliness, and advantages.
In Jesus name,
The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers Edited by Arthur Bennet, 1975
- The bible is full of stories of people who faced persecution. Can you name any examples of people who were persecuted, and how they reacted?
- What can we learn from Jesus example when he was about to face great persecution?
- Consider his emotions in Gethsemane
- Consider how he acted during his trial
- Consider his words on the cross
- Read Psalms 55. How might the verses of that chapter comfort someone in persecution?