The persecution of Christians in the New Testament is difficult for U.S. Christians to comprehend. We may feel ridiculed at times. We may complain that religious or Christian rights are being violated. But we are not persecuted — not by first century standards.
New Testament persecutions involved death by stoning (Acts 7), imprisonment (Acts 8), and flogging (II Corinthians 11). In early secular writings, it is recorded that Christians were hanged, burned alive, and disemboweled by the use of wild beasts. Peter is said to have been crucified upside down.
While Christian persecution may not be experienced in America today, the persecution of Christians throughout the world, particularly in the Middle East, is at an all-time high. On July 22, 2015, The New York Times Magazine published an article written by Eliza Griswold, titled “Is This the End of Christianity in the Middle East?” The brutality of the persecution described in this article and others equals or surpasses that in the first century.
It’s perplexing that American Christians have no tangible way to support or protect Christians persecuted in the Middle East and elsewhere. But we can unite in prayer for them.
Paul’s prayer in Romans 1:8-17 can be adapted for this purpose: “O God, we thank you for our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, whose faith is being reported all over the world due to the persecution they are enduring because of their belief in Christ Jesus. Our God, whom we serve by proclaiming the gospel of your Son, please send your Sprit to these brothers and sisters that they may know we remember them in prayers at all times. And we pray it is your will that they be released from their persecution so that the way may be opened for them to come to us and for us to go to them.”