Small Group Questions

Different Perspective on Persecution

Introduction:

In this world, you’ll have struggles. You’ll face opposition. You’ll be challenged. And there’s a reason for that: This world is not your home. So answer hate with love, find joy in the midst of trials, and rely on a strength beyond yourself. You’re meant to be different even when you face persecution. 

Bottom Line: Opposition is an opportunity for growth. 

Something To Talk About:

Jesus never promised us a lot of things, but what he did promise us was if you are a faithful follower of Christ, if you are set apart, if you are different, Jesus promised the world would persecute us.

  1. Pursue comfort avoid opposition/persecution: Everything going on in our world today is not a surprise to God. He’s not been caught off guard, nor is he asleep or distracted. God is still on the throne. And He still has a plan and a purpose for everything going on in the world around us, and in our own personal life. And that plan does not include curling up into a ball of timidity. What I’ve encountered, in my years in the ministry is that some Christians feel insecure, ineffective, inferior, and apprehensive. There is a certain level of fear. We are afraid of criticism. We are afraid of failure that will lead to rejection. We are afraid our weaknesses and inadequacies will be exposed. And we afraid of persecution, or that others will withdraw from you completely. The best plan is to minimize any persecution by avoiding it and concentrating on what is going well. But that leads to an empty life. It is easy to keep wishing we were bolder, being inspired by biographies about bold people, all the while staying where we feel safe and relatively comfortable and letting fear go unchallenged. 
  2. Live boldly and face opposition: As we have so often talked about, we as Christians should be prepared for persecution. There have been untold millions of mostly nameless, faceless people who have been and are being  persecuted and even killed for simply proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As Christians in the United States, we shouldn’t be living our lives in faith lukewarm or comfortably. We are blessed to be living in a country where we can speak about our faith freely and we can stand up and be bold in our faith. We should be bold in our faith and our convictions. Agreeing with what society dictates is “okay” and fleeing from our beliefs in fear of persecution is not what God calls us to do in his mission for us. Matthew 5:10-12 tells us, “God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you ever been abused, jeered at, or called names because you are a Christian? How did you react? How do you think Christ would have reacted to what you experienced?
  2. Peter reminds us to expect suffering for the cause of Christ. How is this attitude different from the attitude that most American Christians have toward suffering and trials because of their faith in Christ?
  3. Read 1 Peter 4:12: The first thing we need to do when facing opposition for our faith is to not be surprised. Why do you think opposition to our faith often catches us off guard?
  4. Read1 Peter 3:13­-16: The second thing we need to do when facing opposition for our faith is to not be afraid.  Where/who does fear come from? 
  5. Read 1 Peter 4:16: The third thing we need to do when facing opposition for our faith is to not be ashamed. Do you need other people’s approval to be happy? Why or why not?
  6. How should Christians experiencing suffering respond when God seems to be silent?
  7. Martin Luther puts it this way, “When we shall live in that day, we shall look with wonder on one another and say, ‘Shame, that we were not of better cheer, braver, stronger, and more joyful, to trust Christ, and to endure all tribulations and crosses and persecutions, since this glory is so great.'” Reflect and respond to Luther’s quote – what thoughts come to mind after reading it?
  8. What can we do this week to be more bold in the face of persecution?

Take one thing home with you

The 2016 movie Silence by Martin Scorsese is a movie about faith, mission and suffering and asks what it really costs to follow Jesus. The movie prompts deep questions about faith, mission, and suffering. Set in the seventeenth-century, the movie tells the story of two Portuguese Jesuit priests who travel to Japan in search of their mentor, Father Ferreira, and to minister to the persecuted Kakure Kirishitan (“Hidden Christians”) community. Their faith is tested as the Grand Inquisitor Inoue forces them to denounce their faith or watch Christians be tortured and killed. The central theme of the movie is the intentional infliction of torture. The film takes place in a time when Japan was closed to outside religions, especially Christianity. The government actively persecuted those who practiced the Christian faith. The central theme of the movie is the intentional infliction of torture.

The movie is based on a fictional novel by Shusaku Endo that portrays the suffering of Japan’s persecuted Christians in the 17th Century. Today, persecution like this is still a reality for many Christians all over the world. Three quarters of the world’s population lives in countries with severe restrictions on religious freedom, with Christians being harassed in more countries worldwide than any other religion.

Pray for those in the midst of persecution. Pray that these believers will not only stay committed to the call of Christ, but also will respond in love to the evil shown by their aggressors. God’s love will open doors for these believers to share the Gospel even more.