What Is the Bible’s View?
Why Does God Allow His Servants to Be Persecuted?
PERSECUTION of God’s servants has an ancient history. Abel, a son of the first humans, suffered a violent death at the hands of his brother Cain. (Gen. 4:8; 1 John 3:11, 12) Since that time many others have experienced bitter persecution. Why has God permitted this?
The Scriptural record of a conversation about faithful Job sheds much light on the matter. We read: “Jehovah went on to say to Satan: ‘Have you set your heart upon my servant Job, that there is no one like him in the earth, a man blameless and upright, fearing God and turning aside from bad?’ At that Satan answered Jehovah and said: ‘Is it for nothing that Job has feared God? Have not you yourself put up a hedge about him and about his house and about everything that he has all around? The work of his hands you have blessed, and his livestock itself has spread abroad in the earth. But, for a change, thrust out your hand, please, and touch everything he has and see whether he will not curse you to your very face.’”—Job 1:8-11.
Here Satan claimed that Job was serving the Most High only for selfish reasons. It was the adversary’s contention that, once the material benefits were removed, Job would prove unfaithful. This really is Satan’s claim regarding all of Jehovah’s loyal servants. That claim also constituted a reproach on God’s holy name. How so? It made it appear that Jehovah’s rulership is of such inferior quality that no one would submit to it if there were no selfish benefits to be gained.
Therefore, as in the case of Job, Jehovah God has not shielded his servants from persecution. This has enabled them to prove their unselfish love for him and their earnest desire to have the good name of their heavenly Father cleared of all reproach. In fact, they have counted it a privilege to suffer for righteousness’ sake and thus to contribute to the vindication of God’s holy name and toward proving Satan’s contention to be a lie.
The persecution that the Almighty has permitted to come upon his servants has also served other noble purposes. This is evident from a consideration of words directed to Christianized Hebrews: “In carrying on your contest against that sin you have never yet resisted as far as blood, but you have entirely forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons: ‘My son, do not belittle the discipline from Jehovah, neither give out when you are corrected by him; for whom Jehovah loves he disciplines; in fact, he scourges every one whom he receives as a son.’ It is for discipline you are enduring. God is dealing with you as with sons.”—Heb. 12:4-7.
The Christianized Hebrews here addressed had not yet faced the supreme test of having their lifeblood shed. Nevertheless, the lesser persecutions were evidently discouraging some from continuing to carry on the contest against the sin of losing faith and apostatizing. For this reason, they needed to be reminded that the rough treatment experienced at the hands of persecutors actually served as discipline or training from Jehovah. Though very painful, the persecution that the Almighty permitted was for the good of his spiritual children. Christianized Hebrews were told: “No discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but grievous; yet afterward to those who have been trained by it it yields peaceable fruit, namely, righteousness.”—Heb. 12:11.
Those Christianized Hebrews had been chosen as joint heirs of the Lord Jesus Christ. As such, they would share with him in serving as kings and priests for mankind. (Rev. 5:9, 10) So, by faithfully putting up with persecution and maintaining integrity, they would be perfected for their position in the heavens.
This is well illustrated in the case of Jesus Christ himself. He had always been obedient to his heavenly Father. Nevertheless, while on earth he learned obedience under unfavorable circumstances. He suffered much, including a shameful death on an execution stake. Why? One reason for this was to perfect him for his office of high priest. Hebrews 4:15 states: “We have as high priest, not one who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tested in all respects like ourselves, but without sin.”
Similarly, Jesus’ associate king-priests, in having been subjected to suffering, are able to “deal moderately with the ignorant and erring ones,” as were the imperfect Aaronic priests in ancient Israel. (Heb. 5:2) Of course, suffering in itself does not qualify them for their office. Rather, it is faithfulness under pressure that determines whether they will be worthy of gaining the marvelous reward of heavenly life as Jesus’ associate king-priests.
These Kingdom heirs are not the only ones that experience persecution. Actually, anyone who does not go along with the world’s ways, attitudes and actions will incur the world’s hatred. (John 17:14) This serves as a test of one’s true heart devotion and determines whether one can be used by Jehovah God to accomplish what he wants done. Hence, what Jehovah’s servants experience in the way of persecution is really part of their training for the future. For example, the kingdom of God in the hands of Jesus Christ will have earthly representatives, “princes.” These “princes” are men who have proved faithful under test and, therefore, can safely be entrusted with weighty responsibility.—Ps. 45:16.
So, when subjected to suffering for righteousness’ sake, we should remember that persecution is not an evidence of God’s displeasure. No, it proves that we are his servants whom he deeply loves and whom he is disciplining or training for his good purpose. The apostle Peter pointed out that it confirms that true Christians have God’s spirit. We read: “If you are being reproached for the name of Christ, you are happy, because the spirit of glory, even the spirit of God, is resting upon you.”—1 Pet. 4:14.
The Scriptures truly make it clear that there are sound reasons for Jehovah’s permitting his servants to be persecuted. Foremost is the presenting of undeniable evidence that Jehovah deserves to be loved and obeyed and that Satan’s claim respecting the servants of the Most High is false. Additionally, persecution has served to discipline or train God’s servants, equipping them to do what he has in mind for them. May we, therefore, not give out when persecuted but prove ourselves faithful under test. Only then can we be ‘vessels for an honorable purpose, useful to our heavenly Father, prepared for every good work.’—2 Tim. 2:21.