Sunday, April 28, 2013

When Persecution Becomes Personal

The past two weeks have been surreal for most of us in the western hemisphere. We are not accustomed to pressure-cooker bombs at family events. We do not know what to do when sociopaths declare jihad and inflict this kind of mayhem on non-military personnel. We thought we were prepared; April 15th showed us that we were not. For too many, persecution became personal. When that happens, what do we do? How do we handle it?

More important for most who will read this is the Christian perspective. What do Christians do when persecution becomes personal? What response should the Christian give? Make no mistake about it, please; I am an American. But I am a Christ-follower above all else. My worldview is not American. My worldview is Christian. I view the world through the lens of Scripture. I view America through the lens of Scripture. Please let me give you three simple thoughts that will hopefully help you should persecution become personal.

First, recognize reality. The reality is this: we live in the last days. I can hear someone now grunt, "Shades of Tim LaHaye!" Think what you will, but Paul told Timothy in 2 Tim. 3:1-5 that the last days would be filled with perilous times. There will be wars and rumors of wars, according to Jesus. There will be mayhem in many places.

Not only do we live in the last days, we also live among lost people. Yes, I said that; if you are not a Christ-follower you are still what the Bible calls lost. You are one whom Jesus came to seek and to save. We seem surprised when lost people do not behave like saved people. We become perplexed when we find ourselves passing more and more laws to govern the actions of the lawless. Lawlessness is only the outward behavior of an inward problem. These are the last days; we live among lost people.

Second, respond prayerfully. Acts 12 relates the story of Peter being jailed by one of the King Herods found in the Bible. James had already lost his head; it was a politically popular thing to do, so Peter was to be next. But the church prayed. As should we. Do not be as those who too often say that the only thing they can do is pray. It is still the greatest thing you can do. It may well be that it is not the only thing you can do; but it is the greatest thing. I recall a friend who was kidnapped with her daughter and taken to a remote road outside a city in Peru. She did the one thing she knew to do: she prayed in the heart language of the kidnappers. They suddenly stopped and released her and her daughter. Do not dismiss the power of prayer.

Finally, rest confidently. When Peter was jailed, he did what he could: he went to sleep. As a fisherman, Peter had slept through storms, I am sure. He was in a new kind of storm, though. And he slept. The angel sent by God to rescue Peter had to poke him in the side to wake him from his sleep.

This is what you need to know: God will keep you in the midst of the storm. He may not deliver you from the storm. But he will be with you in the storm. Christian, you win! No matter what, you win!

Do not take my words as platitudes. I have my thoughts about the vicious young men who murdered and maimed so many in Boston. I confess those thoughts are not kind. Personal thoughts notwithstanding, we Christ-followers need to respond as Christ would. Persecution may well become personal for you one day. I hope these words will give you some handles as to the best response.

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