“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” – Romans 8:35
It should not come as a surprise when a follower of Jesus gets persecuted or ridiculed. In fact, the Bible tells us that we should expect to be treated with disdain and malice. As the world continues to be enticed by Satan, Christians can anticipate more religious restrictions. Even other religious organizations are being attacked by their governments and it doesn’t seem to be letting up. Allow the Spirit of God to strengthen you during these times so you can stand firm against those that persecute you.
Our Persecution Will be Rewarded in Heaven
Jesus said that all who chose to follow his teachings would face animosity.
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” – John 15:18
Throughout his ministry, Jesus and his disciples continually faced opposition. His enemies knew the only way to stop him was to kill him. They ultimately found a way to convict him for so-called crimes and have him crucified.
But Jesus told us that we should not be troubled. The suffering we deal with here on Earth for the gospel will be rewarded in heaven.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:10
Following Jesus Leads to Persecution
All the hate and persecution that came Jesus’ way, will also come our way as his followers. As his followers, we may also experience some of the same sufferings that Christ did. The apostles certainly did.
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” – 1 Peter 4:12-14
Criticism Leads to Empowerment
We often hear people in many professions—whether it is sports, writing, music or what have you—talk about how instead of letting their critics get them down, they’ve used those painful moments as a way to spur them on and commit themselves with even stronger resolution.
“That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:10
Government Restrictions on Religion Increasing
Governmental restriction on religion is increasing markedly around the globe, not only in authoritarian countries but in democracies throughout Europe and the US. Every day, news headlines give us examples of how religion in America is becoming more restricted.
A new study was released by the Pew Research Center, its 10th annual Report on Global Restrictions on Religion. The study surveyed 198 countries examining religious-based restrictions, as well as, documenting the scope of harassment and violence.
Christians and Muslims Harassed the Most
In terms of the world’s two largest religions, the study found that Christians were harassed and 143 countries and Muslims and 140. The report also said 56 countries are experiencing social hostilities involving religion, up from 39 a decade earlier.
The United States scored among the worst in religious harassment by individuals and social groups, partly due to the white supremacist protesters who gathered at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Countries With Highest Levels of Restrictions
In the past ten years, the number of governments, including China and Russia, imposing high levels of restriction on religion has increased from 40 governments in 2007, to 52 countries in 2017.
Among the most populous countries, China, Iran, Russia, Egypt, and Indonesia had the highest level of government religious-based restrictions.
In terms of regions with the highest levels of government restrictions on religion, the Middle East and North Africa were the highest, followed by the Asia-Pacific region.
Europe scored the highest in terms of placing restrictions on religious dress, which rose from 5 to 20 over the decade. The region saw the biggest increase in dress restrictions, which includes the banning of burqas and face veils worn by some Muslim women.