Epistles to the Cyberchurch - Su Min

To: All
From: Su Min
Subject: Persecution

Dearly Beloved,

Jesus says "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt 5:10-12).

Jesus, the Rabbi, the Great Teacher, has structured his benedictions around a vertical axis, on how man relates upwards to God: confessing Poverty in spirit, Mourning for your spiritual poverty, yearning for Righteousness, seeking Purity, and around a horizontal axis, on how we impact on our fellow man, with Meekness, Mercy, and encouraging us to be Peacemakers.

To end this series of benedictions Jesus approaches the horizontal relationships from the opposite direction: describing not how we relate to others, but describing the impact of other people on the us, the righteous. He promises us that others will insult us, persecute us, falsely say all kinds of evil against us because of His sake.. And paradoxically, this is a blessing.

If others insult us, persecute us, and say all kinds of evil against us because we have been obnoxious, then it is tit for tat, butter for fat, we get our just deserts. But Jesus is relating to persecution for his sake, persecution because the world hates what Jesus stand for and worldly people hate the way we stand for Jesus. Rejoice and be glad in this situation, Jesus says, for it is a blessing and great is your reward in heaven. What an encouragement.

What is it like to be persecuted because of righteousness?

God promises "the Lord thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee. Deut 30:7" Jesus knew what it meant to be persecuted. Early in His ministry there were angry crowds in his home town of Nazareth who tried to kill him by throwing him off a cliff (Luke 4:28-29). The Chief priests and elders plotted to arrest Jesus in a sly way and kill him (Matt 26:4). One of his 12 disciples betrayed him (Matt 26:14-16). Many false witnesses testified against him (Matt 26:60). They spat in his face, he was struck with fists and slapped. He was mocked. He was flogged. He was stripped. A crown of thorns was set on his head. He was crucified. He hung on the cross, nailed through hands and feet. He knew what persecution was.

Fortunately most of us do not live in overtly hostile environments. To us the risk of physical violence is minimal. We do not face real imprisonment, beatings, crucifixion, lions, being seen asunder on account of our faith. (We understand our brothers and sisters in mainland China do suffer from this level of persecution: pray for them tonight! Pray that God would bind their wounds and succour them in the time of their anguish: that He would strengthen them and see them through their travails, that He would grant them His peace and His mercy.)

Yes, suffering for Christ's sake is something promised to us as Children of God. If we are children, then we are heirs- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory (Rom 8:17). God does not promise us a bed of roses, but indeed there are times when roses He does provide. God does not always protect us from thorns. But when we are scratched by the thorns, he is there to comfort us: He knows what thorns are: indeed His head was pierced so many times by a crown of thorns when He was on the cross.

What are the persecutions that we lesser mortals are subjected to? There may be the social rejection from office colleagues and relatives. The unkind words and ribbing. "Oh, that guy, he is a Christian, a goody goody", said mockingly, not respectfully. Pray for wisdom and courage in that situation, that your response or lack of it may glorify God.

The worldly type will often encourage you to worldly entertainment. As Children of God we must draw the line at what we are convinced will not glorify God. Some is obvious. Some is subtle. Some is grey zone. Opportunities for promiscuous sexual liaisons. Graft. Bribery. Corruption. Kickbacks. Gambling. Drinking. Obscene shows. Obscene talk. Your close walk with God, your bible study, your daily prayer will help guide you. A close circle of Christian friends helps you to reinforce Christian behaviour. When you decline such worldly entertainment you are likely to be subject to rejection, persecution.

Jesus says "Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven".

Let us pray.

For any comments or enquiries please write to Dr. Lim Su Min

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