Devotional Thought of the Day!
40 They called the apostles in, had them whipped, and ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus; and then they set them free. 41 As the apostles left the Council, they were happy, because God had considered them worthy to suffer disgrace for the sake of Jesus. 42 And every day in the Temple and in people’s homes they continued to teach and preach the Good News about Jesus the Messiah. Acts 5:40-42 (TEV)
7 “He was treated harshly, but endured it humbly; he never said a word. Like a lamb about to be slaughtered, like a sheep about to be sheared, he never said a word. 8 He was arrested and sentenced and led off to die, and no one cared about his fate. He was put to death for the sins of our people. Isaiah 53:7-8 (TEV)
2 Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne. Hebrews 12:2 (TEV)
11 “Happy are you when people insult you and persecute you and tell all kinds of evil lies against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy and glad, for a great reward is kept for you in heaven. This is how the prophets who lived before you were persecuted. Matthew 5:11-12 (TEV)
123 Do you see? With Him you have been able. Why are you surprised? Be convinced: there is nothing to be surprised about. If you trust in God—really trust!—things work out easily. And, what is more, you always go further than you imagined you could.
Right before Easter, a bunch of FB Memes appeared, asking the “What Would Jesus Do” question, and reminding people of Jesus’ clearing the Temple. As if to justify Christianity on the offensive, a militant form of beat them into submission, a warrior version of Protestantism that confronts and boldly takes on the world and those who oppose the faith. Maybe we don’t want to go to physical war with them, but we want to win the battles of words, the debates.
Sunday, as the first reading ended in church with the quote above from Acts 5, I thought about the fact that the apostles were doing what Jesus did. They didn’t fight back, they didn’t revile their persecutors, they rejoiced!
Even as Jesus embraced the cross for the joy that was waiting, the apostles rejoiced that because they bore the name of Christ, they were whipped and beaten and brought before authorities – because there, they could share about the love of God, proven at the cross. They knew, because they heard the words on the sermon on the mount, the blessing that such persecution was, not because they loved pain, but because of the gospel.
It is not as if our suffering merits someone else’s salvation, or even ours. But if we are truly persecuted for our faith, it shows our connection to the one whom we bear witness to.
How many of us are willing to endure persecution, or allow others to do that in this day and age?
How many of us are willing to serve others by sharing about Christ, if that means persecution, pain, suffering, even death? And yet, even as we go through it, rejoice?
Will we embrace suffering and persecution, knowing that it too testifies of our trust in God? Or will we fight, complain, slander and disrespect?
Will we do what Jesus’ did? Will we do what the disciples did, with the attitude they had – one of joy?
In order to do so, our trust has to be in God, we have to know He reigns, that we are His people, and that everything – even that which is meant for evil (like the cross) will work for good. That is asking us to trust Him in a way most of us are uncomfortable in trying. We would rather fight, we would rather plan strategic countermeasures, But simple rest in Him, trust Him while others role over us? Heck even our own people may think us wimps and join in the persecution, mocking us.
That takes a level of trust only possible if we abide in the presence of God, or more precisely, if the Holy Spirit dwells in us. Because of our baptism, we know that promise is true… He dwells in us, He is transforming us,
Transforming us into the image of Christ, St Paul teachings in 2 Corinthians 3, into the image of the Lord who loved enough to endure punishment, to bring those who persecuted Him into the family of God.
May we learn to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us, and realize that even under persecution we bear witness to the Love of God.
Lord have mercy on us!
Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 706-709). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.