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Recognizing Persecution

Recognizing Persecution

Jesus said that we would be persecuted. He even said that some of that persecution would come in the form of division from those closest to you. But while we read this and accept this intellectually, I wonder if we really have any idea of what this looks like practically?

It’s most likely not going to come in the form of a father or mother telling you that if you decide to follow Jesus that they’ll be upset with you. In fact it’s highly likely based on our demographics that they too consider themselves “Christian”. The most likely way in which you will be persecuted for your faith will be related to the manner in which  you act it out. As you devote time, you’ll be questioned why you’re always at church… “you don’t have to go every week” they’ll say. “You certainly don’t have to go several times a week” they’ll proclaim.

But they’re not going to understand. This is not an obligation. It’s a desire. A new desire that I never had before. But one that I enjoy now.

Maybe it’ll come in the form of a friend that questions why you take the Bible so seriously. “Jesus just wants us to love”, they’ll tell you. “He’s done away with the law”, as they lump every word Jesus ever said into the category of law thus turning obedience into some sort of legalism, and disobedience into a virtues or faith.

Some of their words are going to cause questions to arise. Am I taking this too seriously? Am I being legalistic by taking Jesus at His word?

The fact that you’re even pondering these things is good. It shows your heart is soft and receptive to correction. Beware of a heart that assumes it’s always right. But if you allow those questions to go unaddressed in your own mind they can undermine your faith. You can bring these questions to a pastor or leader, and while that’s not wrong, your answer might be dependent on his walk. We need a fixed standard. Something unswayed by culture. Something not swayed by opinions of the majority. Something fixed and firm. His word.

The reason we lean on scripture is because it is unchanged. It combines the actual words Jesus spoke, but also the context in which He said them. It provides us with events and circumstances by which we can see both successes and failures. It shows us how to actually apply His words.

With respect to my time involved in affairs of the church I look at scripture and evaluate myself. Can I be around God’s people too much? The author of Hebrews tells us to not forsake our fellowship together. Luke records in Acts that they (believers) met every week on “the Lord’s day”. The gospels record that the apostles saw each other every single day. They did life together. Not as distant companions with similar interests but as family. Jesus Himself says that they are family, and family to Him… if they do His will (Matthew 12:48-50).

We always start our evaluation with us. Does our attendance stem from a sincere desire to know Him and be changed by Him? Do we long to be around other believers, and do life with them? Is our desire coming from a desire to be obedient, trusting that God gave us these instructions about fellowship because He knows what’s best for us?

Depending on how we answer these we can move on to evaluating the source of these doubts. Is the person rendering these questions longing to know God in a deeper way? Do they desire to be around other Christians and do life with them? Are they walking in obedience trusting that the Lord’s instructions are for their benefit?

This process of evaluating ourself by scripture first and then others, is how we grow in discernment. It’s the manner by which Jesus Himself said we were to judge (Matt 7:1-5).

Another common criticism hurled our way is that of the seriousness by which we take Jesus words. Again we look at scripture… Do we ever see the apostles not taking Jesus seriously? Is there even such a thing? We’re not talking about metaphors or places where Jesus clearly used symbolism as a method of teaching, but the clear commands, promises and warnings Jesus spoke. Is there ever a time in which we can be too serious about His words? I hope your answer is no.

By the same token, are there warnings about not taking His words seriously? Does Jesus allow for mixed allegiances, lives balanced in ratio between His desires and mine, His kingdom and this world, His goals and my ambition? What does scripture say?

The fall of man came about as a direct result of how we address these questions of persecution. God gave instructions. One with no regard for God raised doubts about those instructions. Man chose to disregard those instructions instead of trusting God at His word.

Deception is all around us, even in our midst. The only hope we have of discerning fact from fiction is His word. The persecution we receive will not likely be an overt form of persecution against our faith as a whole. It will likely start as an attack on our faithfulness. And like a wedge starts sharp and narrow and grows wider so the persecution will be. Starting narrow and covert, it will gradually widen and become more overt. If we don’t take these criticisms back to scripture we run the risk of falling into self righteousness or apathy. And a continued persistence on either of these paths will lead to falling away.

Jesus was very clear. He did not come to bring peace but division, between father and son, mother and daughter, husband and wife. He was very clear that His words and following Him would be divisive. He was very clear that those who care the least about His words would raise doubts and render accusations against those who care the most.

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