Over the past couple of weeks I have dealt with the question of is there persecution here in
I dug around in my archives and fond an old paper I had written on the subject dating back to 1987. Yes, I hate to admit it I’m feeling old today. While it is not the best writing I’ve ever done I decided to post it here with apologies for my youthful scribbling. My hope is to encourage those of you who are dealing with issues that at times seem overwhelming. For those of you have not suffered for the Faith, please know that the Holy Spirit says you will in Paul’s writings.
Option #1: God was mistaken in assuring us that all of His godly children would suffer in this world. Obviously, this option is not possible since God does not lie. He has been so specific in His Word that persecution is not an option but rather a fact of life for the godly believer. (See 2 Tim 3:12; Matt 5:10-12; 2 Cor 12:10; Rom 5:3-4; Rom12:14; John 15:20)
Option #2: There are no true godly people living in
I contend that there must be a few, or God would destroy this country. Consider Abraham’s conversation with the Lord concerning the impending destruction of
Option #3: The final possibility is that Christians in the free world suffer a different form or kind of persecution. Our brothers and sisters in many parts of the world suffer persecution almost exclusively from without. While believers in the free world most often suffer persecution from within.
As in any large family, brothers and sisters put on a united front when faced with a common enemy. When one of the family is attacked, the family usually rallies around this member and sibling rivalry is forgotten. But let the pressure from without stop and it isn’t long before the pressure builds up from within, and brothers and sisters are choosing up sides and fighting among themselves. We are all part of a spiritual family – God’s family. Yet in this world we still have our sinful nature with us. Often we do not get along very harmonious even though we have been commanded over and over again to love one another (John 15:17;13:34; 17:26; Rom 12:9-10; 13:8; 1 Cor 13:1-2; 16:14; Gal 5:13; Eph 4:2; Col 1:4; 1 Thess 3:12; 1 John 3:16; 4:11, 20-21; 2 John 5).
This infighting dates back to the very founding years of the
Believers with Differing Views
Paul, throughout his ministry had to deal with persecution both from without and also from within, specifically believers who did not fully understand his unique mission to the Gentiles. These Jewish believers wanted all Gentile believers to convert to Judaism. While we know that those who taught salvation through works were wrong and probably not even saved having not come to the understanding that salvation is not of works but by the grace of God (Eph 2:8-9). Others were truly saved but misunderstood God’s saving grace was being offered to all without the distinction of racial background or social status (1 Cor 12:13). Good men who were misguided and zealous in traveling from congregation to congregation caused much concern and mental anguish for the Apostle Paul, who had to deal with this problem throughout his ministry (See Gal 1:6-9; 2:2:11-21; Acts 15:1-29).
Today we have much the same thing with zealous misguided Christians who are intolerant to any view but their own. They malign and tear down any ministry that is not in 100% agreement with their own views. They have forgotten our Lord’s rebuke against Sectarianism found in Mark 9:38-41.
Paul also had to deal with envious preachers who were critical of Paul’s motives and ministry. They sought to cause strife and division. These preachers were actually reveling in preaching the Gospel, believing that they were helping to cause Paul additional anguish during his imprisonment and perhaps hastening his demise (See Phil 1:15-17).
It’s interesting to note that even back in the First Century we had men of God who were envious of each other. Each one was trying to be the leader in the Christian community. Christian leaders were jealous of the popularity of one another, of the scope of another’s ministry and of another’s apparent success. These “godly” men were trying to tear each other down to build themselves up. They seemed to have forgotten that Christian leaders are called to be slaves to God and to one another (Mark 9:35).
What is wrong with many of our leaders today? 1 Corinthians 3:3 tells us “For you are yet carnal; for where as there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are you not carnal, and walk as men?”
Their wisdom is earthy, sensual even demonical for James 3:14-14 states that this kind of wisdom produces envy and strife. If this carnality is not checked it leads to further downward spiral to confusion and ultimately every evil work imaginable (James 3:16).
Notice how we are to react
God commands us in His Word to “not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another” (Gal 5:26) Paul praises God that the Gospel goes forth whatever the reason is (Phil 1:12-18). Paul further goes on the say “Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better then themselves.” (Phil 2:3).
Our Own Flock
Paul suffered persecution from his own flocks. Some of his very own converts, perhaps even close personal friends, were frustrated with Paul and certainly let him know their opinion. Throughout his ministry and born out trough his various epistles he was constantly defending what he was doing and even his very calling (1 Cor 9:1-27; Gal 1:10-2:21; Acts 14:26-15:1-12).
Today we have people in our own local churches that attack our motives, our actions, our calling, and even our ministry. Sometimes out of envy, sometimes out of fear and sometimes out of a failure to understand the body of Christ they try to destroy the very body that they claim to love. They are caught up in petty rivalries and jealousies. In our local churches we have become so used to having a maimed and crippled body that when God attempts to heal our bodies by giving us our missing parts we reject them as unneeded and unwanted. Often our flocks don’t realize that they are crippled and incapable if performing at the level God has called them to perform at. We persecute the very help that God has sent us (Matt 21:33-46)
We must be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading in our lives and we must be tolerant of all believers as the attempt to serve God in the ministry to which they have been called.
A final thought, we need to open our arms wide to the sheep God has led to our local flock, realizing that the godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution in this world both now and until our Lord comes again. Let us therefore rejoice when we are counted worthy to suffer for His sake! “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” Acts 5:41!
A caveat about suffering persecution, when dealing with persecution from within always take the situation to the Lord for verification that what you are going through because of Christ’s sake and not because of your personal agenda or own failings.
Too often I have seen people suffer because of their own pride or misapplication of Scripture believe they are “suffering for Jesus” when in actuality they brought it upon themselves.
Remember if we suffer for doing right, so did Christ…for us! The acceptance of the high cost of righteousness was inherited by Christianity. Jesus repeatedly warned of persecution, even from within households, and promised the Spirit’s assistance when answering charges (Mt 5:11–12; 10:16–23, 34–36; 23:34; Luke 6:26).