Friday, December 12, 2008

Daily - 12/12/08

Matthew 5:10-12

10 Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me.

12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Fortunately for us, we live in a day where persecution means something different than it used to. Here’s how it worked out for St. Stephen in Acts 8:

Acts 8:54-60

54 When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him.

55 But he, filled with the holy Spirit, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,

56 and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."

57 But they cried out in a loud voice, covered their ears, and rushed upon him together.

58 They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.

59 As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."

60 Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them"; and when he said this, he fell asleep.

Christ’s followers have been persecuted, in some form or another, since the very beginning. The nature of the persecution has changed over time, thank goodness. For us, living in America, the persecution is cultural. The "enlightened" folks of our time love to make fun of Christians in all sorts of ways. We’re hypocrites. We’re stupid. We don’t believe in science. We are selfish and think it’s our way or the highway. We are uninformed. We’re self-righteous. We’re stuck in the dark ages. We are not "progressive." And so on.

I’m not trying to equate enduring cultural persecution in America today with standing there in prayer while the guys from the Sanhedrin throw rocks at you until you’re dead. But there is a basic similarity … if we listen to Christ’s call and remain in Him, we become part of the spiritual war that has been going on since the beginning of time. And THAT means we become targets.

So why is it a blessing? I found a good perspective on the web.

"There has always been a deep antagonism from Satan toward God, from the world toward the Church, and thus from the ungodly toward the godly. This is not to say that every believer hates every unbeliever. But it is to say that there is an essential conflict between evil and good, and that this conflict will spill out of unbelieving, sinful, carnal people against believing, righteous, Spirit-filled people. It will spill out in derogatory remarks, in cutting accusations, in spiteful attitudes, in unfair dealings, and sometimes in physical harm."

Persecution is a blessing because it is proof positive that the enemy has identified us with Christ. It is both a result of and results in further deepening of the relationship with Christ. I like to think of it this way -- if my faith grows to the point where the enemy takes notice of who I am, then I’m doing something right. Of course it also means that I’ve become a soldier in the war, and that I need to prepare accordingly.