This is an area that has recently come up in Leah and I’s lives and has given rise once again to thought and examination of Scripture to refresh and teach my heart in how one should respond to persecution.
Through the years, our family has experienced persecution, but it was not often directed towards me personally, but to our family as a whole. This past week, though, Leah and I went through having slanderous and false things being said about us and to us (thankfully our Dad stepped in and took upon himself the brunt of this - how thankful and grateful I am for his protection and love!)
I wish that I could say that my heart responded appropriately to all of this. Unfortunately, there was a struggle in my heart to respond as the Lord has called me to!
For me, the tendency is to want to defend myself, to prove that the things being said are not true . . . and yes, even the stirrings of frustration and indignation began in my heart.
Yet Christ presents a very different picture than this, a very different response. He has commanded that when reviled and falsely accused, we are to bless in return; when being hit on one cheek, to turn the other; to forgive immediately and completely.
When reading Scripture, we see that persecution often comes from those who are ‘religious’ people, even those who may bear the name of ‘Christian’. This was evidenced in Christ’s time on earth with the Pharisees, and is also shown in many of the writings of the apostles.
In Scripture, we are also promised that persecution and revilings will come upon those who are following Christ. For “if they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you;” (John 15:20), and again, “Indeed all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
Those are not very comforting thoughts when looking at it from an earthly perspective (which is so easy to do!). But God has instructed us to "rejoice" and "be glad" amidst such things (Matthew 5:10). It always has convicted my heart to hear of the apostles’ response after receiving floggings and other persecutions simply for proclaiming the gospel.
When reading in Acts, we find that they were “rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). They were rejoicing after being beaten and threatened! What could cause such a response? What could so affect the heart to respond in a completely contrary manner than that which is natural?
The only answer is that it comes from the Lord as one trusts and relies upon Him. The Lord is faithful, and as we seek and rest in Him, He will give us the strength to endure whatever He allows to come upon us.
In Isaiah, it is exhorted “Do not fear the reproach of man, nor be dismayed at their revilings” (Isaiah 51:7b). We need not fear nor be dismayed for our hope and peace is not in this world nor in pleasing men, but in honoring and serving the Lord. This is what truly matters, not our reputation, not what others think or say about us, and not what pain and suffering we go through.
It is important to bear in mind what our Lord and Savior endured . . . Christ, the perfect and holy Son of God, was reviled, persecuted and put to death. Yet how did He respond?
“. . . and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to the One who judges righteously;” (1 Peter 2:23)
And as He hung upon the cross, He forgave and entreated His Father to forgive them also (Luke 23:34). In Christ is our perfect example. How He responded is how we too should respond, for just prior to the verse shared from 1 Peter, it is said: “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
May we indeed follow in His steps when going through persecution and revilings. May we respond with His love, grace and forgiveness. May we truly, from our hearts, bless in return for cursing. Oh, it is not easy! But as we rest in our God and Father, He is faithful . . . He will give us the strength to endure.
And not only to endure, but to graciously and willingly give the forgiveness and blessing.
“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:10
“. . . when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; when we are slandered, we try to conciliate” 1 Corinthians 4:12b-13a
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” Romans 12:14
-Posted by Sarah