What does the Bible say about persecution?

Christian persecution exists on a wide spectrum of trials. These may include getting made fun of at school for wearing a cross or not cussing, getting trolled or canceled on social media for posting Christian or faith-based content, family members or communities ostracizing those who become or are Christians, governments forcing churches to close their doors, or being jailed, beaten, or killed for preaching Christ. Depending on where you live in the world and what your local community is like, Christian persecution can occur in varying ways and levels of danger or violence. In some parts of the world, it's illegal to claim Christianity as your faith and punishable by law.

Smash or Squeeze Persecution

Christian suffering is sometimes categorized into two types: smash or squeeze. Smash persecution is often identified as a more violent type of persecution—like a person being beaten, a church getting bombed, or a believer getting killed for their faith. This is often the picture that comes to mind when we think of Christian persecution.

However, squeeze persecution is just as prevalent and can be just as trying. Squeeze persecution has more to do with societal pressures because a person is a Christian. For example, in some countries, like Pakistan, if you are a Christian, you're considered a second-class citizen and are forced to perform what are considered the lowest jobs in society like trash collector, brick maker, sewage cleaner, or house servant1.

You might experience squeeze persecution in your own life if other students at school make fun of you for going to church, bringing your Bible to school, or having certain morals. Your school or teachers might make it difficult for you to have a Christian event on campus but freely allow other secular or religious clubs or events.

Regardless of the type of persecution, the fact remains that "everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Timothy 3:12). There are many verses in Scripture that remind believers that they should not be surprised at the suffering they experience because of the name of Christ. Rather, suffering is to be expected and that the world will persecute them for their faith (1 Peter 4:12); after all, Christ—who was perfect;mdash;also suffered persecution. If we are Christians, then it should be expected that we too will suffer persecution as we follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21).

Responding to Persecution

When someone hurts us, it's easy to desire retribution. But when Christ suffered for us, He did not retaliate nor make threats. He entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23). The following exhortations are from the book of 1 Peter and describe ways that we can follow in Christ's steps when we are suffering for righteousness' sake:

  • Do not repay evil with evil, but with blessing (1 Peter 3:9).
  • Rejoice because you are participating in the sufferings of Christ (1 Peter 4:13).
  • Do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear the name of Christ (1 Peter 4:16).
  • Commit yourself to God and continue to do good (1 Peter 4:19).

The Blessings of Persecution

Although the above header may seem like an oxymoron, God does give us blessings in the midst of persecution. The following are some of those blessings:
  • 1 Peter 4:14 says that when we are insulted for the name of Christ, we are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon us.
  • James 1:2-4 tells us that trials, if rightly responded to, develop perseverance which results in maturity and completeness. Just as gold is refined in fire or as steel is tempered in the forge, so trials and persecution serve to strengthen the character of believers.
  • 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 speaks to the fact God comforts us in our sufferings so that we may comfort those who are also going through suffering with the comfort we have received from God. While the sufferings of Christ flow into our lives, through Christ, our comfort for others overflows.
  • Although we may not know how, Romans 8:28 says that God works through all things for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose. So if God allows persecution to come into our lives, He must be doing something through the suffering for our good and His glory.

Christian Persecution: Action Steps

"Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering." —Hebrews 13:3 (NIV)

One thing that has inspired me in my Christian walk is to learn about other brothers and sisters in Christ who have been or are being persecuted for their faith and to learn from their faithful example. Ministries like Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors, and International Christian Response publish current missionary prayer requests, stories, and reports about Christians suffering for their faith around the world through their newsletters, podcasts, conferences, and website. There are also opportunities through these ministries to encourage persecuted Christians through letter writing, sending supplies, or providing Bibles.

I personally know a family that received letters from Christians in America when their father was in prison for his faith, and they were greatly encouraged, knowing that Christians were praying for them and remembering them in their bonds for Christ.

Reading or watching "heroes of faith" stories about how faithful believers in history trusted in the Lord during times of difficulties are equally encouraging. A great place to start is with the book series "Christian Heroes: Then and Now" (YWAM Publishing). When I read or hear testimonies of Christians who are standing firm in their faith or are asking for prayer for their persecutors, I'm inspired to keep standing firm in mine and to have a godly response to persecution.

Is persecution a requirement?

While we don't need to go looking for trouble, if you are a Christian, then you should expect to experience persecution at some point. This doesn't mean we "must" be persecuted or that we need to seek out persecution. The fact is that world does not like the message of the gospel. As a result, those who live according to God's will are going to come into conflict with those who don't. That usually means that those who obey God will be abused and persecuted by the world. This doesn't mean that every Christian will experience heavy persecution or be tortured for their faith. Nor does it mean that ONLY those who are persecuted are real and true believers. It's simply something we should be prepared for. When life gets tough on account of our faith, we should not be surprised.

In one sense, you could say that persecution is one of the evidences that you're doing something right, because the world has noticed that you're standing for Christ and walking in His steps. Regardless of the type of persecution you receive, it can be a real struggle to commit yourself to God and continue to do good. But don't give up!

We ought to seek to obey God to the best of our abilities. If that results in earthly blessings, we should use those to further obey God. If that results in persecution, we should be prepared for that. Regardless of the outcome, we can appreciate being part of His plan. We don't need to seek any particular "result"—good or bad. All we need to do is follow Him, wherever it might lead (Matthew 16:24).

"Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him." —James 1:12 (NIV)

REFERENCES: 1. "Fassal: Pakistan." youtube.com, youtu.be/mATdRtRCCuM. Accessed 14 Mar. 2023.



The Bible says that those who follow Christ should be prepared for persecution at some point in their lives (1 Peter 4:12). Jesus Himself suffered for us, yet He did not retaliate, and we should have that same response when we suffer for our faith. 1 Peter tells us to rejoice, not be ashamed, do good instead of evil, and commit ourselves to God when we suffer Christian persecution, for God often uses these trials to grow us spiritually. Learn about other Christians, past and present, who have also suffered for Christ to find encouragement in your own struggles. Regardless of the type of persecution you experience, it can be hard to stay committed to God and continue to do good. But don't give up! "Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him" (James 1:12, emphasis added).

Writer: Hanna S.

Hanna loves spending time with kids and teens. She enjoys being detectives with them to investigate God's Word to discover truths to answer any questions. She is the co-author of a newly published apologetics curriculum for children and teaches one online for highschoolers-adults. To learn more about her ministry you can visit networkerstec.com. For fun, she likes to play Ultimate Frisbee, read historical fiction, and paint.

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