When believers are persecuted for their faith by unbelievers, should they approach the government to raise their concerns?
Some of our international readers may have faced many years of persecution for their faith and will be familiar with this question. For believers in the UK, due to the acceleration in acceptance of antibiblical views in areas such as education, the workplace, mainstream and social media, this question has recently become very pertinent. Paul reminds Timothy of a general principle that ‘all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution’, 2 Tim. 3. 12. Is it the Lord’s will for us to accept this persecution without complaint? Or do the scriptures provide any guidance on whether it is right to approach authorities to raise our concerns?
Let us try to establish some general principles based upon the word of God:
The Bible informs us that, as a general principle, God has ordained government for the good of society, Rom. 13. 1-5. Hence, making use of the authorities we are placed under, and laws it has instituted for our welfare, is a legitimate use of God-given government. For example, Paul appeals to the local authority to avoid being wrongly flogged, Acts 22. 25. He also makes use of international authorities, appealing to Caesar, so that his case can be heard at a higher level, 25. 11.1
In the 2010 Equality Act, nine protected characteristics were introduced into UK law, one of which is ‘religion or belief’.2 One purpose of this law is to protect people of faith, like ourselves, against discrimination, harassment, and victimisation.3 A believer does no wrong, therefore, in making legitimate use of these, or similar laws, for their own welfare.
The scriptures also provide wise advice on how to deal with persecution. Books such as 1 Thessalonians, 2 Timothy, and 1 Peter provide guidance. Individuals such as David, Elijah, Daniel, and Jeremiah in the Old Testament, and Paul in the New Testament, experienced persecution and their lives are recorded to help us. Daniel is a particularly good example, given the hostile environment he was in, and close contact he had with authorities. He was careful in selecting his objections to bring before the prince of the eunuchs, Dan. 1. 8. There were other things he could have rightly complained about. Daniel was respectful and discreet in his approach, vv. 12-14. The spirit in which we make our objections known is important. We need to be ‘wise as serpents, and harmless as doves’, Matt. 10. 16.
It was in the context of James’ martyrdom that Peter was imprisoned, where we read that, ‘prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him’, Acts 12. 5. We need the prayers of God’s people when going through persecution, and we need to pray for those we know of who are experiencing persecution for their faith. Seeking guidance from Christian ministries offering legal advice,4or from believers in the legal profession is another way to obtain support.
Our persecution is a result of the One we follow. The Lord Jesus reminded His disciples, ‘The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you’, John 15. 20. The Lord Jesus was unjustly treated. He appealed for the law to be brought to bear in His trial, John 18. 19-23, yet this appeal was rejected. 5 There may be occasions when the authorities are unwilling to listen to us when we must decide that ‘we ought to obey God rather than men’, Acts 5. 29. Peter reminds us that it is praiseworthy to patiently suffer when wrongfully treated by the authorities we are under, 1 Pet. 2. 18-25. The Lord Jesus is our great example, ‘who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously’, v. 23.
No doubt Paul also had in mind that in making this appeal he could be a testimony to kings and others in authority, Acts 9. 15.
It has not escaped the author’s notice that there is a glaring inequality in the application of the Equality Act especially in the amount of attention given to certain of the nine protected characteristics and not others.
Examples include the Christian Legal Centre (https://christianconcern.com/about/services/christian-legal-centre/) or the Christian Institute (https://www.christian.org.uk/support-us/ldf/info/).
This was not for His own benefit since He knew Calvary was impending, but to expose the inconsistency in the leadership of Israel.
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