Why Persecution of Christians?
JEHOVAH’S Christian witnesses are usually well liked as persons by their acquaintances. Many admit that they are good neighbors and do not cause any trouble. On the other hand, some hate them, not for what they are as persons, but for what they believe, and especially because they talk freely about their beliefs. Actually, it would be strange if the Witnesses, as Christians, were not bitterly opposed, because Jesus told his disciples: “Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you. Bear in mind the word I said to you, A slave is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also; if they have observed my word, they will observe yours also.”—John 15:19, 20.
One reason for this persecution is that the world has its practices that it does not want to give up. The Bible truths and principles preached by Jehovah’s Witnesses make many people feel condemned. (Compare Hebrews 11:7; Matthew 14:3-5; John 8:45-47.) They do not understand why the change comes about in an associate of theirs who becomes one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. On this point the apostle Peter says: “The time that has passed by is sufficient for you to have worked out the will of the nations when you proceeded in deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches, and illegal idolatries. Because you do not continue running with them in this course to the same low sink of debauchery, they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you.”—1 Pet. 4:3, 4.
In all of this Jehovah’s Witnesses are not being sanctimonious or self-righteous. Neither are they seeking persecution or martyrdom. They love and enjoy life and want to keep living in peace. Therefore they devote themselves to learning Bible principles and living according to them. (1 Pet. 3:10, 11) And they also want others to enjoy the fine things that they have found, and to have a hope and a purpose in life. So they call at the homes of the people because they do not want to overlook anyone and thereby fail to offer every person the life-giving message of the “good news.” (Compare Acts 20:26, 27; Ezekiel 33:2-5.) They call repeatedly, because they know that circumstances change, and a person not listening today may experience a change in his situation and in his thinking later on.—Eccl. 11:6.
It is actually out of love for the people that the Witnesses call at their homes. They know that people’s lives are in danger and they want to help them. They are not making any personal profit, but they have the joy of seeing individuals learn the truth and take a stand on the side of Jehovah’s universal sovereignty. They have received free and they give free.—Matt. 10:8.
HATED FOR OBEYING THE ‘LAW OF THEIR GOD’
The apostle Peter wrote to Christians: “Let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a busybody in other people’s matters. But if he suffers as a Christian, let him not feel shame, but let him keep on glorifying God in this name.” (1 Pet. 4:15, 16) Since Jehovah’s Witnesses try to follow this counsel, their persecutors have been forced to follow the tactics of the prophet Daniel’s enemies in the Persian Empire. They said to one another: “We shall find in this Daniel no pretext at all, except we have to find it against him in the law of his God.”—Dan. 6:5.
In accordance with the apostle Peter’s instructions, then, Jehovah’s Witnesses are brought before courts, not on charges of immorality, thievery or other forms of illegality, but because they follow the Bible’s injunctions. For example, they are hated by religious leaders because they do not teach that God is going to torment people in an eternal hellfire, a thing that the Scriptures themselves do not teach, and that insults and reproaches the God of love.
Some are opposed because the Witnesses do not take blood transfusions. This refusal is not a rejection of all medical treatment. Jehovah’s Witnesses often turn to doctors or surgeons in their sicknesses. But their refusal to take or give blood for transfusions is wholly Bible-based. It is a sticking to God’s Word, which specifically says: “Abstain . . . from blood.” (Acts 15:19, 20, 28, 29; Gen. 9:4; compare Leviticus 17:13, 14.) But the Witnesses do not tell people who believe in taking blood not to do so.a
The Witnesses are neutral as to warfare and strife between the nations, as well as being clean from all political involvement, not even voting, because they fulfill Jesus’ description of them as being “no part of the world.” (John 17:14) For the same reason they do not salute the flag or emblem of any nation. For a Christian witness of Jehovah to give devotion, worship or service to, or to bow to or salute any image or idol is a grave sin in the eyes of God.—1 John 5:21; Acts 15:29; compare Exodus 20:4, 5; Deuteronomy 5:8, 9.
But Jehovah’s Witnesses know that “all those desiring to live with godly devotion in association with Christ Jesus will also be persecuted.” (2 Tim. 3:12; Mark 10:30; John 15:20) Therefore, while not seeking persecution or enjoying the suffering that persecution brings, they are nonetheless happy because it is an added evidence to them that they are taking the right course and are pleasing their God Jehovah. (Matt. 5:11, 12; Acts 5:41) They are not embittered because of persecution, but continue to declare the “good news” to all, and are seeing many honest-hearted persons gladly accept the “good news” and join them in carrying it to others.
a See the booklet Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Question of Blood.