One of the things we can count on as Christians is that there will be persecutions. We will be taken to task over many of the things we say, do and believe. Even though as Christians our aim is to be like Christ, everyone else will use that as an opportunity to cut us down whenever we slip up or make a mistake or act in a manner that is perhaps…less than Christ-like.
So persecutions are gonna come whether we like it or not. It is all part of the testing of our faith and so we need to understand how to deal with the persecutions when they come.
This short section of scripture shows us one of the things we should do, like Jesus did, when the persecution was more than just words. So we will look at that and then the less dangerous forms of persecution.
There are many ways you may be persecuted as a Christian, and there are many who have and will suffer violent persecution.
We see in this section of scripture that Jesus was being violently persecuted. Verse 57 states, “Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if any one knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.” The leaders of the Jews were seeking Jesus to arrest Him and they had shown earlier that they were plotting to kill Him.
Such has been the situation for many Christians and righteous people over the millennia. Jezebel sought the life of Elijah, King Saul sought the life of David, the Jews sought the life of Paul and there are many others.
So what did they do under such circumstances? They fled! Yep, they got on their bikes and took off as fast as they could go and they didn’t come back until it was safe to do so!
What did Jesus do in the same situation? He left the Judea and went to the region of Galilee to a town named Ephraim as it says in verse 54, “Jesus therefore no longer went about openly among the Jews, but went from there to the country near the wilderness, to a town called E’phraim; and there he stayed with the disciples.”
Some people believe you should stand and fight and tough it out when you are being persecuted, but that is not what the Bible is showing us. Sure we need to make a stand on what is right, but when it gets dangerous…head for the hills! It will do neither the gospel, the work of the Lord or anything else any good to remain and suffer violence or possible death if, and I say IF, there is an opportunity to get out while the going is good.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes you can’t get out, but the Lord may want that to occur for His glory and/or His greater work. A clear example was when Paul and Silas were beaten and imprisoned in Acts 16:19-40. In that situation they were used to bring repentance and the gospel to the house of their jailer and great glory came of it.
But if you can get out before getting beaten and imprisoned…then do it. Don’t hang around until it is too late, but do what Jesus did leave the vicinity.
OK. There will also be plenty of times that we are persecuted but not in a violent way. There are eyes watching us Christians seeking to find fault and when they see us slip and fall, they are ready to pounce on the slightest thing. They will use words like, “You call yourself a Christian and yet you do <fill in the blank>.”
The main aim of the devil is to get you to condemn yourself, then the guilt starts, then the self-doubts, then the unworthiness, then the thoughts of not being good enough…and then some fall away. The challenge is to break the cycle before it gets too far.
A lot of new Christians are also persecuted as the devil tries to pull them back into his ways. He will put stumbling blocks like inviting them to parties that clash with church, having their friends jibe at them for their new found faith and all sorts of other things as well. It is a serious time of testing for a young Christian…and some don’t make it.
So how should we deal with it? Well there are a few alternatives that can be used to break the vicious cycle of persecution.
First and foremost we need to stand behind our shield of faith in the full knowledge that Jesus has saved us and that His sacrifice has set us free from condemnation and sin. Regardless of the words of any other man, the Lord said we are good enough and He is compassionate towards our weaknesses.
Then we must use the sword of the spirit, first for defence and then for attack. We can defend and attack through prayer to the Lord over the issue. Defence by seeking him in repentance and turning from whatever the wrong was we did, if there was any wrong, and attack by asking the Lord to forgive the other person and to help them to see the light of the truth. Powerful stuff is prayer!
What if this doesn’t work?
Some people will not listen and will want to attack regardless of whether you are in the right or not. We don’t have to stand toe to toe with them and we should not seek their ill from the Lord.
The best approach when there is no reasoning that will turn the situation around is simple to pray about it, then walk away. Sure it can be tough if the persecutor is close family or a close friend, but it is not the Lord’s will for us to be constantly in a place of persecution.
His will and the very essence of the New Covenant is that we be set free. So if you can avail yourself of the opportunity to be set free rather than enslaved in the place of persecution, do it. Step away and leave the persecutor alone. Come away and keep your faith between yourself and the Lord and let them go on their way. If the Lord has his hand on them, He will lead them to where He wants them to be to hear the word and His voice.
As for a new Christian, the Lord gave a good teaching on how they should behave early in their walk. I discuss this in the Hidden Treasure Parable in Matthew 13, but in a nutshell He tells a person finding a treasure of great value (i.e. the gospel) to initially cover it up until he is sure it is his own. A new Christian will often do the opposite because they want the whole world to know what they have found, but if they don’t fully grasp it, it can be taken away by Satan because they need to become established in the word for it to take root in their lives. Then when they are stronger they can tell everyone about how wonderful the Gospel of Jesus Christ is and the salvation He offers to all mankind.
There are other ways of dealing with persecution too, but rather than me going on, tell me what you think and what works or has worked for you.
(Photo sourced from stock.xchng taken by B S K aka Spekulator)
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