Christian persecution is any hostility, experienced from the world, as a result of one’s identification with Christ. This can include hostile feelings, attitudes, words and actions.
But what does the Bible mean by the word “persecution?” In Matthew 5:10-12, Jesus says in the Beatitudes that persecution is a blessing. Not one that many of us ever desire! Jesus also defines the word for us in Luke 6:22 using four verbs. He says, “Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.” Note that it is Jesus in you who is the reason for and the target of persecution.
In Romans 8:17, the Apostle Paul tells us, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs -heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” So when we share in Jesus’s sufferings (hatred, exclusion, insults and rejection) we become heirs who will also share in His glory. The four verbs above can be experienced in varying degrees of intensity. When we ask audiences in North America for word associations with the term “persecution,” we usually get the answers: torture, imprisonment or martyrdom. We often tend to think of persecution as only the very intense forms. But even when you experience hatred, exclusion, insult and rejection (because of Jesus in you) in a lighter intensity, you are still being persecuted – and therefore are an “heir.”