Most of us saw this headline in the news recently: "Has Last Christian Left Iraqi City of Mosul After 2,000 Years?" Increasingly, Christians are being persecuted around the world. And though this might seem very remote for many of us living in relatively "safe" places, we and our children need to remember our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering for the sake of the Gospel. Here is a simple lesson that you could use to help your children understand persecution and our response to it. Read John 15:18-20a:
“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.” (ESV)
According to Jesus, should Christians be surprised when they and the church are hated and persecuted? Why not?
- These words came true very soon after the beginning of the church on the day of Pentecost.
- In Acts 7:54-60, we are told of the stoning to death of Stephen because of his belief in and proclamation of the Gospel.
Read Acts 8:1-3:
And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. (ESV)
Was Stephen the only member of the church to suffer?
What did some Christians have to do? [Look at the end of verse 1.]
What happened to other Christians? [They were dragged out of their homes and sent to prison.]
- Explain that hatred and persecution of the church is not something new. The very first church in Jerusalem experienced terrible persecution.
- The same is true of the church today. In many places around the world it is dangerous to be a member of Jesus’ church. Sometimes the churches are threatened or carefully controlled by the government or other evil men. Sometimes the Christians in these places are put in prison or even killed. In some of these places the Christians must meet together “underground” or in secretthey cannot gather together like we do.
What about those of us who are not experiencing this kind of persecution and suffering? Should we simply be thankful that we can gather together openly and freely, and say something like: “I’m sure glad I don’t live in Iraq”? Or does Jesus want His church to do something for the members who are hated and persecuted?
Read and talk about the following verses:
Hebrews 13:3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.
Acts 12:5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4a Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction,
2 Corinthians 11:32-33 At Damascus, the governor…was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands.
- Jesus knows that His church will be hated and persecuted. In some places in the world, this hatred and persecution may not seem very noticeable (as in your own city or country). But in many places around the world, the members of Jesus’ church are suffering, and even dying daily.
- We need to remember the persecuted churchwe are all like one body. And if any member is suffering, we all suffer. Therefore, Jesus wants us to remember, pray for, comfort, and sometimes even rescue those who are persecuted.
As a family and/or church, choose some practical "action steps" to take regarding the persecuted church. For many practical ideas and other valuable information, check out kidsofcourage.com (from Voice of the Martyrs).