Persecution: A sign that you’re getting it right?
The ambassadors of Jesus
40 Blogs of Lent: Day 6
Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
Matthew 10:16-23 ESVUK
The passage started in Chapter 9 with Jesus saying the fields are white–there are many waiting to hear and respond to God’s word and sending people out. Now comes the warning: There will be persecution.
Up to now, the advice has been specific to the twelve disciples being sent out. Now it is more general. Persecution will come is a message to all and applies not just back then but now.
Persecution of Christians is not just a thing in the 21st Century, but the persecution is at unprecedented levels. 76 per cent of the world’s population live in countries with high restrictions on religious freedom, and the vast majority of those facing persecution are Christians. Persecution is real. Persecution is now.
Back to the passage: Jesus said that persecution would come from three sources:
Persecution from religion
Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues Matthew 10:17.
Religion is a prime source of persecution. Sometimes it comes from the outside, such as the persecution of Christians by Muslims in the Middle East or by the Rising Hindu Nationals in India. (Of course, it is not just Christians that are persecuted, there has been an exodus of Muslims from Buddhist persecution in Myanmar.)
But persecution can come from within. Whenever God is moving there is always opposition from within the church. When God moves vested interests try to keep the church where it is. In the 18th Century, Church of England bishops were against the preaching of the Wesleys. Even in New Testament times the Acts of the Apostles shows that there were different factions which were not supporting each other, although pressure from the Jews and the Roman state were larger worries.
Persecution from government
and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.v 18.
Tales of Romand feeding Christians to lions are well known and still today there is official Government opposition to Christianity by North Korea and opposition to Christianity and Islam in China. Sometimes it is the atheistic desire to get rid of religion and sometimes Christian and other leaders standing up to the policies of governments or to the moral lives of political leaders.
Persecution from family
Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death v 21.
Being betrayed by those closest to you, friends and family, people who you trust, is the worst kind of betrayal. Jesus was to experience this when one of his inner core of twelve handpicked followers becomes his betrayer.
We are called to go to places which are not safe because the fields are white to harvest. Among the persecutors are those who will respond to the gospel and those who will go on to oppose the oppressors.
“Others have you in their power now. They torture and frighten you, hound you from pillar to post. But the inner law of freedom sings that no death can kill us; life is eternal.”–Alfred Delp SJ, hanged by Nazis in Feb 2 1945