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Bless Those Who Persecute You

Garry Trudeau is the liberal cartoonist who draws the Doonesbury comic strip, so I was surprised to find that even he saw, many, many years ago, how ridiculous the politically correct movement would eventually become. In a Sunday strip released during a time that many colleges were holding their commencement exercises, a commencement speaker says (I wish I had kept the strip; I am recalling this from memory), “Hello. I want you to know that I passed my speech by the Politically Correct Committee to ensure that it did not offend anyone. Congratulations. Have a good day.”

It is bad enough that our culture has fallen to this disease. But the infection has spread to the Church. The letter written by the president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University is proof of that (see my blog at http://claytonhowardford.com/this-is-not-a-day-care-its-a-university/). That we now have seeker-friendly churches is proof of that. I have seen Christians offended because someone looked at him or her “wrong” or did not look at him or her at all or spoke to him or her “too harshly” or did not say “hello” at the last service.

Such people would not have survived in the first century church. Because of the divisions within the Corinthian church, Paul told them that they were not “spiritual people,” but were “carnal” and still “babes in Christ” (1 Cor. 3:1). When the Galatians turned from the true gospel to follow another gospel, Paul called them fools (Gal. 3:1). When Peter fell into error, Paul rebuked him—in front of the whole church (Gal. 2:11-14)! Paul also told Timothy to do the same to any other elder who sinned (1 Tim. 5:20).

Nor would these people have survived as the disciples of Christ. Jesus told his disciples that they would have to eat his flesh and drink his blood. Many of them found this to be offensive, so they walked away. Jesus turned to the twelve and asked if they, too, wanted to leave. Peter gave him the perfect answer: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Our culture says that Jesus should have responded with positive words that would have boosted Peter’s self-esteem, words such as, “Very good, Peter! You gave me the perfect answer! I love you so very much!” Instead, Jesus said, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” Jesus knew even then that Judas was the devil to whom he referred, but he did not tell them that. His response not only deflated Peter’s ego and enthusiasm, it left the twelve wondering which one of them was the devil (John 6:53-71).

Once, when they were crossing the lake, Jesus told them to beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod (Mark 8:13-21). When they did not understand what he meant, he said, “Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened? Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember?” Jesus rebuked and spoke harshly to his disciples many times. Rarely did he give them words of encouragement. And rarely does he give us words of encouragement. In fact, most of us may never hear a word of encouragement from him until we get to heaven and hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

And those who are easily offended will not do well in the coming persecution. They think they are being persecuted already. They mentioned the name of Jesus and someone gave them a dirty look and someone else laughed and someone else ridiculed them. They find these responses so offensive that they think they have accomplished something great and wonderful, equal to the accomplishments of the great martyrs of the past. Others find these responses so offensive that they are afraid to mention the name of Jesus ever again. What will these people do when the real persecution comes?

The Christians in the first century knew what real persecution is. The epistle to the Hebrews was written because some Jewish believers were being so persecuted that they were seriously considering returning to the Jewish religion to escape the persecution. The writer reminds them that when the authorities took all of their earthly possessions, they joyfully—joyfully!—accepted the plundering of their goods (Heb. 10:34). But he also tells them that they were spiritually immature (Heb. 5:12-14). I find his assessment of these believers to be amazing. And then I take a look at us, the modern Western Church. We have yet to reach the stage of persecution where they take all of our earthly possessions. We are only at the stage where they, at most, ridicule us. If we are offended at that instead of joyfully accepting that, just how mature are we really?

If we are so easily offended by how someone looks at us or by what someone says to us or by someone’s tone of voice or by ridicule, what are we going to do when they curse us? What are we going to do when they take all of our earthly possessions away? What are we going to do when they take our spouses and children away and we will not be able to see them again until we get to heaven? What are we going to do when they falsely accuse us and imprison us and torture us? What are we going to do when they take knives and skin us alive, layer by layer? What are we going to do when they cover us with tar and then set us on fire?

Jesus said this is what we are supposed to do: “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12). And Paul said this is what we are supposed to do: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Rom. 12:14).

But how are we going to bless those who persecute us in the future if we are not blessing those who offend us now? How can we become mature spiritual adults who bless our persecutors if we remain immature little brats who are easily offended by harsh statements like this one? It is time for us to stop being offended by others and start being a blessing to others. It is time for us to grow up.

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