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1/ How does the Bible define “persecution”? The word most commonly translated “persecute” (διώκω) means to pursue (i.e., in a hostile manner), to make to run or flee.
2/ It can refer to various types of threats of harm, often short of murder (Mt 24:9; Lk 11:49), including ostracization (ἀφορίζω, Lk 6:22), wrongful arrest, and imprisonment (Luke 21:12; Acts 22:4).
3/ But in his Sermon on the Mount/Plain, Jesus also names less violent, non-corporeal expressions of hostility as forms of persecution: “insult,” “slander” (“rejecting your name as evil”), “exclusion,” “hate” (Mt 5:11; Lk 6:22).
4/ Interestingly, Open Doors, a leading organization that supports and equips persecuted Christians in more than 60 countries around the world, points out that North American Christians tend to be less attuned to these “lesser” forms of hostility:
5/ If our perspective on persecution is possibly skewed, it may be helpful to consider a Middle Easter underground church leader’s take on “American persecution”—
6/ This isn’t to lend credence to any “persecution complex,” wherein the loss of social power, any slippage from the perch of cultural dominance, is declared to be religious oppression. This mindset is particularly unhealthy/destructive when it is stoked for political gain.
7/ But all this is to say that unnuanced, broad-strokes declarations—such as “Christians in America are persecuted!” AND “There is no persecution of American Christians!”—tend to be unhelpful, misleading, and, especially with respect to biblical usage of “persecution,” imprecise.
8/ It’s also to say that the gradual rise in hostility toward historical/global Christian beliefs and ethics in the U.S., may in some cases and places soon fit—if it doesn’t already—the definition of “persecution” set forth by Jesus himself.
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