Persecution is not a word we like to meditate on. This isn’t a topic for discussion over a cuppa and biscuit, it won’t bring you light relief at the end of a long day and it won’t give you a warm fuzzy feeling.
But it is promised.
Jesus Himself warned his faithful followers that they would be persecuted;
“If the world hates you, remember that they hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.”
This warning is as real and relevant to us as Christ’s followers today as it was to the disciples of the early church.
The definition of persecution is hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of race or political or religious beliefs; oppression. This means that anyone who receives negative comments, is the victim of malicious gossip, is excluded, or is subject to cruelty of any kind for their faith is persecuted.
There are many thousands of Christian men, women and children across the globe who have died or are dying for their faith right now. People who bravely stand up for their belief, refuse to surrender to extremist bullies and worship God in the face of the enemy who seeks to steal, kill and destroy. May we never forget these precious people in our prayers, and may God rescue them from this world and bring them home to Himself.
But as I ponder their persecution, I wonder what this looks like for us, in a relatively safe western civilisation. Did you ever have a group of friends as school, college or work who took a dislike to you because you were different? Took offence at your impressive grades or rapid rise through the ranks? I understand that this playground style bad behaviour pales in comparison to the atrocities suffered by Christians worldwide as we speak… or does it?
What constitutes persecution or abuse in the Western world? Where do you draw the line of unacceptable social behaviour towards those who dare to be different? Because, effectively that is what we are called to be. As followers of Jesus we are called to be salt and light in a dark world, to preserve love, peace and patience, to promote good and extinguish evil. Like a struck match our faith is as the flame, bright and effervescent, burning in our hearts and casting a light around us for all to see.
But oh how quickly that flame can be extinguished, and not least when our light illuminates the darkness in another. Not least when our words convict those who know they should know better. Not least when our actions support the prompting of the Holy Spirit in another, making them uncomfortable. Because like it or not, we are all imperfect and we all need to change and grow, but this is rarely a comfortable process.
Our faith can waver as we face the loss of a friendship, a relationship or a business deal because we are different. Our steadfast feet can wobble as the persecution we are promised in the Bible is exacted upon us and the promises we read in the Bible don’t come to pass in our time frame.
But this is not how Jesus intends for us to live.
We need to remember that we are living in the end times. We need to cling to the hope we have in Jesus and remind ourselves that THIS IS NOT OUR HOME. We have an eternal home in heaven and we are merely passing through. When hopelessness hits, when financial ruin threatens and when health fails, don’t lose sight of all that God has planned for your life. The devil may think he has won the battle but we know who won the war. Hold you head up high, face your battle knowing that the angel armies themselves have got your back.
I love this quote. I read it earlier in the week and I think it is just so fitting for those who are in a battle right now;
An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means it’s going to launch you into something great. So just focus and keep aiming ~ (Unknown)
If you are in a situation at the moment that is dragging you down; a classmate who spreads malicious lies about you, a colleague that is making work a living nightmare, or the breakdown of a relationship because of your beliefs, stop and consider that God can and will use it to propel you in to your future.
He can work ALL things together for the good of those who love Him, and His promises are always Yes and Amen.
And then my friend, when we have battled our belittlers and prevailed against persecution, we will know and experience the very real promises of God.