Persecution: In Jesus’ Day and Ours
1 Peter 4:12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed
The recent beheading overseas and now in the United States serve as a stark reminder of how vicious persecution can be. In our days as well as the New Testament times, faith is often severely tested. Peter writes that we should not ’be surprised’! Persecution— especially for God’s people— has been a way of life. One we should prepare for.
The Romans Caesars came to power about 50 years before Christ. The Caesars— Julius who reigned 49-44 BC, and later Augustus Caesar (31 BC to 14 AD) exercised tremendous control over their subjects. Statues extolling the Caesar’s as ‘gods’ were situated all over the Roman empire— including Judea. It was customary for citizens, if they wanted to stay in the good graces of the Roman government, to offer sacrifices to Caesar. This could include ceremonially burning incense to one of the statues, and /or swearing an oath of allegiance to Caesar before a magistrate. Some form of Caesar worship was not only encouraged but required. Say ‘Caesar is Lord’ and things would go well for you. It was, however ‘anathema’ for both Jews and Christians. They could worship only God, and God alone. Roman persecution could often be sudden and severe.
And how about today? Have you experienced persecution because of your ‘refusal’ to worship the ‘idols’ of the world? Do you find it, as a Christian, difficult to live ‘in’ the world and yet not be a ‘part’ of it?
Simon Peter, in both his first and second letters, is constantly remind believers that persecution will come— in one form or another. 1 Peter 4:1 ‘Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude’. 1 Peter 3:14…if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened’! Peter even reminded the church that ‘ it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God (1 Peter 2:19)
It is OK to pray against suffering in our lives… but it is more important to pray that we will hold fast to faith IF suffering comes our way!