Persecution is not only on the way. It is not merely knocking at the door; it is in our home. Persecution has made the words of the Bible cry out with renewed vitality:
- In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3:12)
As Jesus warned, evil is so deceptive that the persecutor will justify the worst abominations:
- They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. (John 16:2-3)
Many believe that cutting Christian heads off is a righteous act. If you are like me, your first reaction is to scream out in righteous indignation and want revenge. However, anger is too much to bear on a 24x7 basis. Consequently, I have found much relief in the words of our Lord:
- Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret--it leads only to evil. (Psalm 37:1-8)
The first place to turn is always to the Lord, where we are to “trust in the Lord… delight…in the Lord… commit your way to the Lord.” He will take care of it. When we allow our anger to take charge, “it leads only to evil.”
Yet, in the Lord’s hands, our anger can be used productively. Notice that the Psalmist mentions “the justice of your cause.” Once we trustingly give our concerns to the Lord, we are not to sit on the sidelines and watch our neighbor’s house burn down. Instead, we are to take up the “cause” and pursue “justice” with the promise that our Lord will make “your righteousness shine like the dawn” and “your cause as the noonday sun.”
However, we do not pursue this “cause” with desperation but with confidence and joy:
- Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ… I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved--and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him. (Philippians 1:27-29)
Just trust that our omnipotent God can change our fear into confidence so that we might be able to reflect the reality of the Gospel.
However, we cannot hide our eyes from the suffering of our brethren:
- Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, "But we knew nothing about this," does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done? (Proverbs 24:11-12)
We often fail to be the Good Samaritan. However, we must confess our sin and ask Him to equip us to do better, no matter how many times we fail.
Finally, be assured that the victory is the Lord’s. From the Lord comes our confidence and not from ourselves. He has promised to rescue us and to punish our oppressors, as the Psalmist guarantees:
- For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off; the righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever… Wait for the LORD and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it. I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a green tree in its native soil, but he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for him, he could not be found. Consider the blameless, observe the upright; there is a future for the man of peace. But all sinners will be destroyed; the future of the wicked will be cut off. (Psalm 37:28-29; 34-38)
This message is disdained in the progressive West. According to their thinking, there should be no distinctions among people, even among the innocent and the guilty. We should all be one. However, the distinctions are obvious and undeniable. To deny them is to be willfully blind and to destroy society! Some people will rape and kill; others will protect and build up. Some deserve punishment; others deserve commendation.
Besides, knowing that God will bring justice frees us up to personally love and forgive others, even as we support the just role of the civil government (Romans 13:1-4).
Knowing that God will bring justice also psychologically unburdens us. God has planted justice in our heart. This means that we are tormented at the sight of injustice. In order to move on in life, we require that justice be done, that the murderer of our daughter be found and punished. This is pleasing before our God who “loves the just.”
One day, there will be justice, and our hearts will be perfectly at rest. It is this hope that allows us to confidently proceed.