Persecution and doing the impossible

How do we respond to God’s sovereignty, as holy and set apart people? How do we put to death the flesh that demands an eye for an eye?

Heart attitudeAt our church we’ve been going through Romans 12 for a few months, and each Sunday brings a new verse to explore and dig deep into truth.

Romans 12:14 ~ “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.”

But what if they…? Really?  Yes.

This one little line is a command, and it is connected to  Jesus’ beatitudes in Matthew Chapter 5. And who knew of persecution more than our Lord? Even Paul, who persecuted Christians and held the coat of those stoning Steven to death would become persecuted himself, just as Jesus already knew that he would.

When we bless someone, we are calling down God’s blessings on that person. And He asks us to bless those who persecute us. Those who hate us, snub us, make our lives difficult, and who literally pursue us to do us harm. This is impossible for us to do from a human perspective. We want justice, and fairness. The Law we understand: An Eye for An Eye.

Matthew 5:10 ~ “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus says.

He explains more a few minutes later in Matthew 5:43: “You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.'”

So that we can be shaped and molded to be more like Him.

Every time I hear or read those verses, I’m shown that my own flesh is so very weak yet, and stubborn. But when we are persecuted, we are not to respond in anger or hurt, even on the inside. Instead we are to respond in humility and service. That’s obedience. And it is impossible to do without trusting that He knows better than we do.

Turn the other cheek? Yes. Walk an extra mile? Yes. Persecution is evil and wrong, and God knows this. He isn’t saying that there should not be consequences. But He is concerned with our hearts, and wants to address the evil flesh that still rules them.

His purposes in our humble blessings on our enemies may well be for a bigger gain than our sanctification. We may never know how our love and blessings will impact our persecutors, but He does. Our actions and reactions is a huge witness to a watching, wicked world. Speak truth, pray blessings on your enemies and allow your heart to be shaped and renewed by a God who loves you enough to die for you and for me.

 

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