The Church and Persecution
Devotional Thought of the Day:
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness: the kingdom of Heaven is theirs. 11 ‘Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you. Matthew 5:10-12 (NJB)
1026 Violent persecution had broken out. And that priest prayed: Jesus, may every sacrilegious fire increase in me the fire of Love and Reparation.
There are times I think, that the church in America has re-written the scripture passage above in their hearts. It goes something like this:
Blessed are those who avoid persecution or complain about it, for religious freedom will be theirs. Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak bad about you, because you say you are a Christian, but refuse to love them, and sacrifice for those you consider evil and corrupt. Rejoice and be glad, for this is how the pharisees operated back in the day.
You may think that harsh, but while there are churches being burnt down with their parishoners inside, we claim the church in America is being persecuted. Why? Because our society doesn’t resemble us, and our nice fantasy that America is primarily a Chrisitan country is being dashed to pieces. And our reaction to our image being shattered? “It’s persecution? Those people are evil! The church needs to stand up and fight for what is right! We’ve got to restore this country to greatness”
And in taking that attitude, we’ve lost something, we’ve lost the vision of the Savior who came to care for those broken, lost in darkness, We’ve lost the knowledge that spiritual warfare is about freeing those bound in sin and darkness, it is about delivering them into the presence of a God who completely loves them. It’s about giving all to minister to them, even dieing if necessary. It’s about not loving our own lives, so much that we wouldn’t die for the sake of the Lord we trust in, the Lord who called us into relationship with Him.
I love Josemaria’s words here, a man who struggled through civil war, where Chrsitians, laypeople and clergy were killed by both sides. Let the fires of persecution, the sacrileges committed as people are killed because of their faith – let those fires increase our fire, our zeal to love, our zeal to see reconciliation, our zeal to see the gospel free people from all that oppresses them, and open to them the power of God. For the more we see the brokenness of the world, the more we cry out for God to work, the more we depend on Him, the more we are spurred on to show the only hope that only God provides.
That’s why the church in places like the Sudan, in the Ukraine, in the Middle East, in so many dark places in the world grows rapidly, for it is the only place of hope. That is why scripture talks about turning the other cheek, and going beyond what is required by the law, but embracing suffering for the sake of those who are caught up in sin, for those dominated by evil. Because as they see us, they realize there is something different. We see it as Paul and his companions sing praises in Jail, or as saints throughout the ages bless their persecutors like Stephen did.
Don’t whine about perceived persecution. Stand firm in your witness to Christ – and love and work to reconcile them to God. For this is how Revelation describes us,
10 Then I heard a voice shout from heaven, ‘Salvation and power and empire for ever have been won by our God, and all authority for his Christ, now that the accuser, who accused our brothers day and night before our God, has been brought down. 11 They have triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word to which they bore witness, because even in the face of death they did not cling to life. Revelation 12:10-11 (NJB)
Don’t fight the fire of persecution with counter attacks, but instead with the fire of God’s love.
Lord have mercy! God give us the strength to love our enemies, and to zealously pray for those who persecute us!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3630-3631). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.