Persecution is Normal

This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from Menes Abdul Noor (Egyptian, a respected leader of the Christian Church in Cairo), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.  That is why the world hates you. (John 15:18-19)

The greatness of Jesus is seen in the clarity and openness of His teachings.  He tells us that the world gives privileges to its followers.  It loves its own.  It hates the believers in Jesus because it hates their Master.  The world hates the Father because it does not know the Father (John 15:21,23).  The world has no excuse for its sin, because Jesus spoke clearly about the consequences, but they refused His testimony.

Those who abide in Christ should know who they are.  They are not of the world.  They are chosen by Jesus to go out of the world.  The world hates their leader.

Jesus teaches us that if persecution comes to us, it should come because we are loyal to Him, and not because of our mistakes.  When the apostles of Jesus were beaten they departed from the presence of the Jewish council rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for Jesus' name (Acts 5:41).

Jesus warned us of coming persecutions (John 15:20).  We should not be shocked.  If we suffer for His name's sake, then persecution is normal.  We should not think that the Lord had deserted or forgotten us (Isaiah 49:14-16).  'Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven' (Matthew 5:12).

A moment of introspection:  Persecution is normal... (normal [definition: conforming with a norm or standard, NEXUS Dictionary])  In the life of a Christian, persecution for Christ's name conforms with a standard set by Christ.  Such a standard has been confirmed in the experience of the worldwide Christian church as a whole and in individual lives throughout the centuries since Christ's crucifixion, resurrection and ascension.  Yet, as I recently had opportunity to mention to our church leadership, we in the western hemisphere have largely been privileged to NOT suffer for the name of Christ.  In general, our mission and our message has been hindered as we find that the world has not hated us.  Should we not ask ourselves why the world looks kindly on us?  We are privileged; we have been loved by society since the founding of our country of America.

We know, however, that persecution is coming against Christ's Church--against Christ's followers.  It is coming to us as the current societal and governmental paradigm changes occur in our land and our region of the world.  More and more instances are demonstrating the imminent or present arrival of hatred of us and our beliefs.  Brother Noor rightly applies the Living Word of God in his thoughts.  And we would do well to consider the gravity of God's Word in this regard.  We have many lessons we can learn from those believers who have survived the world's wrath, among us.  Within the worldwide Church, we have examples of courage in the face of persecution, of faithfulness to Christ, of sacrifice for His name, of love that overcomes loss, of ways in which persecution has drawn Christians closer to our Lord.  These and many more lessons begin with the apostles in the Bible, and extend through the ages in the examples of Christians who suffer at the hands of the world. Consider the lessons of the apostle Paul, of Peter, or Luke and Barnabas.  Consider the lessons from The New Foxe's Book of Martyrs (Voice of the Martyrs [VOM] Books - updated to include recent accounts from the 160,000 martyred in 2001), or from the Martyrs Mirror (Herald Press - The Story of Seventeen Centuries of Christian Martyrs From the Time of Christ to A.D. 1660).  Consider the lessons found in the Latest News section of www.christiansincrisis.net.

In God's Holy Scriptures, we are encouraged to persevere in the faith, to overcome the allure of the world, and to resist the devil.  Our days draw us ever closer to the second coming of Christ.  God has not forgotten us.  God has not deserted us.  We ever have a Friend who is closer than a brother.  Seek evermore strongly to grow in relationship to that Friend, to follow Him and listen to what He tells us.  As Pastor Richard Wurmbrand (founder of the Voice Of the Martyrs organization) was once quoted as saying that it makes no difference, while one is being tortured, if one recites the 23rd Psalm over and over--if one has not known and followed the true Shepherd, the Christ, during one's life.  In John's gospel (John 16:33b), Christ Jesus said "In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world."  Christ had just told His disciples in that passage why He had warned them of the coming trials they faced:  he said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace." (John 16:33a)  To borrow a phrase from a popular Christian song:  people, get ready.  Wise words.  Persecution is normal.

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