Endure or Avoid Persecution?
Do we as believers love sinners so much that we are willing to endure persecution in order to see them come to faith? That question is vital if we as the church are going to put down our carnal weapons, sacrifice our emotions, feelings, and pride, and offer ourselves as a living sacrifice. A man named Dan Savage is a gay man. He is outspoken and is disturbed by violence against gays. But how do we “respond” to such a man? What would Jesus do?
Watch this video and then I want to add to the discussion. I invite comments from all perspectives, but please think Biblically and with the nature of Christ about the subject.
Watch this video.
Did your negative emotions rise within you? Were you offended at the language? Or did you sense anger at his attack on the Bible? What kind of emotions seemed prominent as you watched and listened? As you could see, many young people walked out as they heard his attack on the Bible. I am sure they were sincere and presumed that they were standing for truth. I admit that it took some courage to walk out publicly. But if you are to be consistant in that principle, then you must leave the room every time a television is on.
But let us move past what we felt. Let us go to a place where we can think and pray and discuss this topic in the light of Scripture and the teachings and life of the One we follow. I submit beforehand, that the church has been self brainwashed into a form of self righteousness that does not in any way mirror the teachings and example of our Master. In fact, we have created major straw men which we can knock down and bask in our own applause. It generally is not intended to be mean, but does it reflect the Spirit of Christ and His cross?
Let us lay a Scriptural foundation for this discussion.
Matt.5:11-16 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Matt.5:43-48 - Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Rom.12:14 - Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
I Cor.4:12 - And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:
13 Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.
What should be our response to persecution or when men revile us for our faith? It is obvious. We should allow the love of Christ to strengthen us to the extent we suffer it. What does Paul say we should do when we are defamed or our reputation is besmirched? He says we should entreat, which means to plead with desperation. How different is that spirit than one which suggests we protest, or confront attack with attack, or walk out? That is my contention. How can a lost world, including the most belligerent among us, see Christ if they never see Christ in us?
It isn’t just your nice, lost neighbor to whom we are commanded to love and be longsuffering, it is the Rosie O’Donnell’s and the Rachel Maddow’s and the Dan Savages of this world. I realize that it is much easier to castigate them and run away with our hands over our ears, but that completely ignores the teaching, the intent, and the integrity of the cross. Jesus most forcefully confronted self righteousness, but with sinners He gave His life. Our thin skinned approach seems very convenient and in effect avoids the persecution we are called to endure for His sake.
Think about this. I know and support missionaries who live and witness in Muslim nations. Their very lives are in danger, and a few times they were called up before authorities. God has been gracious and they still provide a witness, although they must have wisdom. They have seen a score of conversions over a ten year period, and they conduct clandestine Bible studies for those converted Muslims. But some of those who came to Christ ridiculed the Bible and blasphemed the Lord Jesus in front of these missionaries. They said many blasphemous things, but those missionaries did not run out of the room in protest.
No, they stayed because the souls of those lost Muslims were more important than exhibiting their offense. The love of Christ continued to reach through those hurtful and untrue words. Why? Because their mission is souls and their vehicle is the gospel. Do we only love those who are not combative? Do we only witness to those whose level of deception is palatable? Do we now consider protest stronger than His love? So if we are unwilling to endure verbal persecution, what persecution will we endure? So where can we find some authoritative guidance on this issue?
Acts 7:58-60 - And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.
59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Ah yes, the very first martyr recorded in Scripture. But notice two important things. Notice who was a witness, and in fact a supporter, in the death of Stephen. None other than a man named Saul who was later to become the great apostle Paul. But notice also what Stephen prayed AS HE DIED. “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” I assume that the man Saul heard that prayer as did all of his executioners. Do you believe that had a more redemptive impact on those people than if Stephen would have called down judgment upon them all?
Matt.27:27-31 - Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, and gathered unto him the whole band of soldiers.
28 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.
29 And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!
30 And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.
31 And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify him.
Jn.19:1-3 - Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged him.
2 And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and they put on him a purple robe,
3 And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.
And here we find our undisputed example. This is not just an emotional story meant to invoke sympathy. No, this is to be presented to us, and in fact shoved in our self righteous faces, as a convicting example of just how far Jesus went to reach US and just how far we should go to reach THEM! Do you not see just how much we have changed and manipulated the spiritual mandate in order to make ourselves some “warriors for truth” fairy tale?
Truth? Are not the verses I have shared truth, or is the only truth that which your systematic statements of faith offer? Why is the Trinity truth but not the self denying love for sinners? Why is the virgin birth truth but not the sprit of redemption that endures persecution with inward joy and outward love for the persecutor? Why must we walk out on a lost and deceived sinner instead of praying for him in your seat and asking for an opportunity to speak with him? Self righteousness is a sophisticated deception that most often appears as a religious conviction.
And so we must address our response in the video. If you were seated in the room, just what do you think the Spirit would be saying to your heart. How would God’s Word be a light unto your path in that situation? And if the most irritating and unsavory sinners cannot be saved, then we are all still in our sins. Meditate and pray on this, because that little high school setting has implications about how the church behaves in the larger settings of politics, moral debates, and nationalism as a whole. Who will we be to the lost world - defenders of our doctrines or sacrificial conduits of redemption. We cannot be both.