What Is Persecution?

I’d consider myself to be rather confident in my faith (for only being 23), but I have to admit there are some things in the Bible that I just can’t seem to make sense of in today’s society. For example, why do we have toenails? But seriously, one of the most perplexing for me is the idea of persecution. Sure, I know cognitively what the word means, but I have no contextual comprehension for what that looks like in today’s American culture. What does being ostracized in some way for my faith look like here?

“‘If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 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. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: “They hated me without a cause.”” – John 15:18-25

In a society that is infatuated with celebrities, that is precisely what the overtly persecuted become here, a celebrity. The persecuted are quickly transformed into the symbol of those seeking refuge in the safe haven of the US and are catapulted into a myth-like category of demi-god and rallying cry. Simply put, persecution doesn’t work at all the same way it did back in the early centuries of the Church (Acts). Rather than being a trial, it serves to exult the persecuted individual and so we don’t see it very much here.

At the same time, I cannot fathom a country free from bigotry and discrimination as they both seem consistent with my perceptions of the human condition. I’m not calling everyone a bigot, nor am I calling them prejudiced, but I know those few are out there no matter where you go. What does this form of marginalization look like, though? Am I merely fabricating its existence just to prolong the publication of this blog? Could it be that I’m out of material and refuse to recycle an old post?

To be honest, I can’t rule out either of those latter questions, but I feel there’s a much more important question to be asked at this juncture. Assuming persecution really is a very rare case here, could that be because we as Christians are living a life that serves to self-persecute?

Oftentimes, I feel like I am so self-conscious of my own faith that I marginalize myself. I am crippled by the perceptions of others that I subjugate my essential rights and freedoms to their possible negative reactions. I beat myself down mentally before they have a chance to do so themselves in some form.

Conversely, I also judge many based on some made up set of guidelines so that I can boost my self-image. I do this so that I can counteract my own self-consciousness before it has a chance to cut me down. Basically, my own insecurity in who I am and, more importantly, who that person is in my Savior, Jesus, pushes me to diminish others and persecuted lest they subvert my preemption. This alone is substantial evidence for me to believe that this shortcoming is reason enough for me to not need to undergo persecution for my faith to be tested.

Of course, these are merely my thoughts, but thoughts that express a confusion with the Biblical idea of facing persecution for our faith. It must be out there somewhere in this country, but it’s very difficult to find. I can’t think of a single example where someone has truly been ostracized or mocked for their belief in Jesus, let alone beaten. Therefore I turn to you, my friend. Where do you see persecution in America? Am I that blind? Do we seem to preempt any persecution with the manifestation of our insecurities? Or, could it just be that we Christians persecute those around us enough to have turned everyone else off the taste of blood, if you will?