Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Specter of Persecution

Jesus had a peculiar method of evangelism. Whereas today we might say "Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life," what Jesus Himself actually said was, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:10; NKJV).

    Jesus was looking at life realistically. There was, in fact, strong historical evidence to back up His assertion. His words echo the lament of the prophet Elijah centuries earlier: "I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am life; and they seek to take my life" (I Kings 19:10).

    One might well ask, if a prophet comes bearing a message from God, and especially if someone comes proclaiming the good news of salvation in Christ, why would anyone oppose him? We can only stand to gain by heeding the message, and opposition would only be self-defeating!

    The answer is that deep within the soul of an unconverted person there is a spiritual war going on. On the one hand his conscience is appealing to him to submit to God. ". . . what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them . . . His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead . . ." (Rom. 1:19,20). But on the other hand they "suppress" this knowledge (v. 18); they try to convince themselves that none of it is true, that they do not have to pay attention to any of it. Thus if some Christian evangelist or missionary comes along and reminds them of the truth they are trying to suppress, the natural instinct is to shoot the messenger. It is really their own consciences, however, that they are trying to stifle.

    And it is pure insanity. What is to be gained by fighting against God? He is our Creator. He is our Judge. We owe everything to Him, and His ways are always best. By aligning ourselves with His purposes we can find inward peace and joy; whereas by fighting against them we can only bring upon ourselves misery, ruin and woe.

    As for the messenger, he must expect opposition. When Jesus sent His twelve disciples out on a preaching tour He told them: "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves" (Matt. 10:16). He added, "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword" (v. 34). The sobering implication for the disciples was this: "he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me" (v. 38). And then He lays down the paradox of the kingdom: "He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it" (v. 39).

    "For theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (5:10).

No comments:

Post a Comment