When I pastored in Phoenix a number of years ago, my assistant pastor was from a Middle Eastern country and a number of our church members were refugees from Burma/Myanmar.

For all of them and almost every other refugee that our church served, their life experience prior to being resettled in America was oppression generated by the government, those from other religions, other ethnicities, or other political convictions.

Persecution and the oppression and suffering generated as the result of the decisions others make was the norm in their lives, not the exception.

It wasn’t that difficult to use the truths of God’s word to bring comfort and encouragement to those that come from that kind of background.

The bible has much to say about the subject of suffering, especially suffering that is the result of persecution as distinct from disease or sickness.

While I was in the midst of loving and serving those precious people and as a result of what I’ve seen taking place in our country since then, it has become painfully obvious to me that American Christians need to develop a “theology of persecution”.

As I survey the history of the church in the United States even right up till today, outside of a few strands within the African-American church, a “theology of persecution” has never really been developed and integrated on to our doctrinal hard-drives and into our day to day life-operating system.

Without developing this crucial component of theology becoming fully mature in Christ and representing Him properly regardless of what God permits others to inflict upon us due to our identity as His children, will be extremely difficult.

Here’s my take on why this is and what I believe every follower of Jesus needs to consider:

First–During the entire history of the Christian church, there have only been a few countries where being a follower of Jesus actually “pays” rather than “costs” in any substantive way.  The United States has been the greatest example of this.

Second–If we’re being honest, the sheer fact that pastors need to regularly define New Testament words and terms like: “persecution”, being “reviled”, being “hated”, being “defamed”, being spoken against as “evildoers”, or “suffering for righteousness sake” for their church members should tell us something about the historically odd environment that we have lived in.

Third–The fact that Americans need to find examples of what this type of treatment looks like from church history or from what is currently taking place in many countries around the world, should be pretty clear indicators to us.

Let’s face it, life for the follower of Jesus in America just isn’t that similar to what is described as the norm in the New Testament or what others in church history or in many other countries experience today.

But, if we’re paying attention at all to what is happening in this country, then we know that radical changes have begun and will more than likely continue–-regardless of which political party is in power. 

Changes that God is sovereignly permitting to take place.

What kind of changes? 

Changes that I believe will make it possible for us to give examples of the things above, (included in my 2nd point), FROM WITHIN our own country and perhaps even our own personal experiences—again, changes God is permitting to unfold in our midst.

In other words, I don’t believe it will be long until the truth of this verse, (and many others that for all intents and purposes, have been irrelevant for us), becomes a description of our own experiences, not just those from history or from other countries:

2 Tim 3:12 Yes, and all who desire to live Godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution,

Now please don’t misunderstand me.

1–-I’m NOT praying that God completely dismantles the country I’ve been blessed to be raised in and have served as part of the military.

The country that in many cases, has partially operated according to Kingdom principles for its own citizens and occasionally been guided by them in its interaction with many other countries.

The country that through its citizens has provided unparalleled financial and other resources that made it possible for me and thousands of others to go and live in other countries to serve their people, pass on the good news, and participate in Him expanding His Kingdom around the world.

2–-I’m NOT eager to suffer persecution or any of the other things that the bible seems to indicate are generally the norm for someone who follows Jesus.

3–-And, I’m NOT saying that we should abandon the freedoms we have in this country to exert meaningful influence on the political system or government we live under.

But, from my perspective, I believe each and every follower of Jesus would do well to develop a “theology of persecution” as soon as possible and then begin interpreting and navigating life through what they’ve come to believe about God’s purposes in permitting His people to experience persecution.

Is it possible that God has brought refugees into our country and right into our neighborhoods and the day to day sphere of our lives–especially Christian refugees, for more than just an opportunity for us to serve them as they begin a new life in our midst? 

I think so.

Yes, we should be demonstrating His love and care for them.  But I’m convinced they are an expression of His love and care for us—His provision for us to learn from and to guide us as we are come to grips with the reality that He desires us to develop a “theology of persecution” for the first time.

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