Persecution is a harsh reality for Christians in many parts of the world. Children using the David Caleb Cook Foundation’s Life on Life discipleship program are learning what the Bible says about persecution and how they should respond.
Below is a portion of a lesson for young teens about persecution:
What Is Persecution?
If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.
As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. …
If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.
Teacher Tip: This devotion is based on a true stories of a persecuted Christian. As appropriate, share these and other true stories of persecution from your own country and community with your students during these lessons.
Solomon became a follower of Jesus at a young age. Christians in his country often face persecution by religious groups and the government. Solomon and his father were confronted about their faith by their neighbors, whom they had treated with kindness. The neighbors confronted them with machetes, machine guns, and difficult questions. Even after his father was killed and Solomon was soaked with fuel, he refused to denounce his faith. “I will not turn back,” he said. So, Solomon’s neighbors set him on fire.
Though Solomon lost his father and nearly lost his life that day, he does not regret the pain or the scars. “Christ suffered to save me, so I feel I am prepared to suffer in persecution for the salvation I have in Him,” Solomon said. We can learn from Solomon’s example that we can remain strong in our faith, no matter the threat.
Consider the persecution you may have seen or suffered. How did you respond? What did you learn from the experience? As you encounter persecution, remember that you can trust in Jesus when you struggle with the fear and anger caused by persecution.
Teacher Tip: The information in this lesson is intense and may be difficult for your students to hear. It may be helpful to allow the students to take short breaks during the lesson. If a student seems particularly upset by the information, be sure to talk with her after class to encourage and pray for her.
“Persecution” means suffering or being mistreated because of your religious beliefs, ethnic group, social class, or political ideas. It may include being harassed, mocked, beaten, forced out of your home, jailed, or even killed. A simple way to explain persecution is that it is a group mistreating another group because they are different in some way.
Here are some things about persecution you may not know:
Persecution is a worldwide concern. People are persecuted on nearly every continent for their religious and political beliefs, their ethnic groups, and their social classes.
The most common form of persecution is religious persecution, and the most persecuted religion in the world is Christianity. In more than 60 countries, Christians are persecuted by governments or other religious groups.
In some places, those who are persecuted are forced to leave their homes and even their countries to find safety.
Apostasy and blasphemy laws make Christianity illegal in many countries. In these countries, Christians can be jailed, face torture, and even be put to death for their beliefs.
Teacher Tip: If it is helpful, explain to your students that “apostasy” means refusing to follow or obey a religion that is recognized by the government and “blasphemy” means speaking out against a recognized religion.
Persecution can occur against a single person or a small or large group.
When a person supports justice and human rights and opposes violence, corruption, and the mistreatment of others, that person could face persecution.
- Why do you think persecution happens?
Persecution is most often the strong oppressing the weak. It usually involves an individual or group of people that wants power and control over others or a group of people that considers itself better than another group. Often, the persecuting group feels threatened by the other group.
- Why do you think an ethnic, religious, social, or political group might seem threatening to others?
Those who are persecuting others may be afraid of what they do not understand. If there are scarce resources, such as food or land, the powerful group may be trying to keep it all for themselves. Sometimes people persecute others because they are fearful of being persecuted themselves.
I am going to share some examples of persecution that have happened and still are happening around the world. Think about what kind of persecution each represents. There are 4 types: religious, ethnic, political, and social persecution. Often persecution begins for 1 reason and then grows to include other reasons, so these examples may include more than 1 type of persecution.
Teacher Tip: If it is not safe or appropriate to share these situations with your students, try to think of other situations to share to illustrate the different types of persecution.
- In the 1930s during World War II, the German Nazis killed millions of Jews. What kind of persecution was this?
- In Rwanda in 1994, the Hutu tribe killed almost 1 million members of the Tutsi tribe. What kind of persecution was this?
- In North Korea, anyone who speaks against the leader of the country may be jailed or killed. What kind of persecution is this?
- In some parts of the Middle East, it is illegal to be a Christian. If someone is found to be a Christian, he or she will be forced to leave the country or killed. What kind of persecution was this?
Persecution has happened throughout history. Because Christians were persecuted in the time of the early church, there are some examples of persecution in the Bible. Listen to what the Bible tells us about Christian persecution.
Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
2 Timothy 3:12
- Why do you think Jesus told His followers that they would face persecution?
Christians are sometimes hated because they do not behave or believe as others do. This lack of understanding can cause fear and anger in others—and sometimes it results in persecution. But Jesus understood fear, anger, and persecution, and He gave His followers advice about how to handle persecution. Listen to what He said.
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
- Why do you think Jesus told His disciples to pray for their persecutors?
God loves all people, even those who persecute others. He reminds us that we should love everyone too, including our enemies. When we pray for those who persecute others, we can pray that God will provide safety and peace for those who are being persecuted. We can also pray that He will change the hearts of the persecutors.
Teacher Tip: Some of the teens may feel guilty or wonder if their faith is weak because they do not face persecution. Help them to understand that God has a plan for their lives. It is possible that they have been protected from persecution so that they can pray for and help others. Remind them that they can trust that God cares deeply for each of them.
But even if the hearts of those who persecute others are not changed, we can trust in God’s love, even in our most painful and difficult times. Listen to what the Bible tells us about God’s love.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future,
nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- How does it make you feel to know that nothing can separate you from God’s love?
- Do you think this could help you in times of persecution or when you see others being persecuted? Why or why not?
Persecution is tragic and painful for those who experience it. But we can help to prevent it by making others aware of the causes and dangers of persecution. Here are some things you can do to raise awareness about persecution:
Invite others to pray with you for those who are suffering due to persecution.
Pray for those who persecute others. Pray that they will learn about God’s love and be changed.
Write a song about persecuted people. Sing it with your family or friends.
Make a new friend. You can set an example of how to love and accept others by being kind to someone new.
Help others learn more about persecution by sharing what you have learned.
Celebrate the ways others are different from you. Thank God for His creativity!
Think of a way you can safely stand up for someone who is being bullied or mistreated.
Open a Bible and read it. Many Christians have been put in jail or even killed for doing this!
Get into groups of 3. As a group, think about a situation of persecution you have seen, heard about, or experienced. Talk about which of these ideas you would like to try in order to raise awareness in your community. Or you can think of your own ideas. Then, make a plan to try the idea!
Teacher Tip: If the students cannot think of any persecution in their own lives, share the true story from the Teacher Devotion with them. Or you can share examples from your own community or country.
Give the students 5 minutes to discuss the situation. Then gather the class together to discuss the activity. If you have time, allow 2–3 groups to share how they want to raise awareness about persecution.
Helping to make others aware of persecution is important. But it is even more important to pray for the persecuted. God is powerful. He hears our prayers and cares for those suffering.
If you are a Christian, you may face persecution. Some of you may have already experienced it. Some of you may have faced persecution for other reasons, such as your ethnic group, your gender, or your political beliefs. You may have been mistreated, mocked, or hurt.
But we are not alone. God promises to never leave us. Listen to this verse we read earlier about God’s love.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
No matter what we face—persecution, abuse, hunger, loneliness—there is nothing that can separate us from God’s love. No matter what we do and no matter what is done to us, His love will never end. It is more powerful than any enemy we face. We can trust that He will be with us when we face persecution.
Close with a blessing based on 1 Corinthians 12:26.
Blessing: May you learn to suffer with those who suffer and rejoice with those who rejoice because you value every life.