WHO ARE THE PERSECUTED?
Blessed are the persecuted.
That’s us, right? (Or at least us in the broad sense. I make zero claims of suffering persecution in my comfy American lifestyle.) Yet whenever I think of persecution, I always side with the persecuted, not the persecutors.
- But are we ever on the other side of persecution?
- Do we ever make others suffer?
- Do we ever treat people wrongly because their beliefs (or race/politics/orientation/fill in the blank) differ from ours?
Can we also be persecutors?
What exactly is persecution anyway?
Technically, it’s from a Latin word, persecut, meaning “followed with hostility.” In the Hebrew, David used persecuted as radaph, meaning “to run after, usually with hostile intent” (Psalm 119:150). When Jesus said, “Blessed are you when others persecute you” (Matthew 5:11), the Greek word is dioko, meaning “to pursue, to make to run away.”
So, if we’re doing these things, we might be counted as persecutors . . .
- Treat others with hostility
- Pursue others in a troubling manner
- Drive others away unfairly
BUT REALLY, WHO ARE THE PERSECUTORS?
But we’re not beheading believers, like we’ve seen in the Middle East. We use only words to induce inferiority and inadequacy (and underneath our words, maybe a lot of judgmental thoughts).
We don’t inhumanely disown family members if they become “heretics.” We only stop talking to and/or inviting them to Thanksgiving dinner, assuming our reward/punishment system is for their own good and will change their behaviors.
We don’t torture another person because they refuse to agree we’re right. We only sarcastically chuckle about their silly views (and graciously, might not even mention them by name!) in our Facebook updates among our like-minded friends or over lunch with our Christian friends.
Does this mean we’re “better than” because we’re not as bad as we could be? Does God grade self-righteousness and spiritual pride on a curve?
We know the answer: No.
4 THINGS FOR PERSECUTORS TO DO
What do we want for those who persecute others? Perhaps we should ask for the same things ourselves.
- Admit it
Recognizing when we are wrong is the first step toward change. Let’s consider who we may be hurting and pushing away with our words and actions, either actively or passively.
- Ask for forgiveness
If we’ve caused someone to suffer because they offended us or disagreed with us, let’s seek forgiveness from God and the other person. Let’s actually say the words, “I was wrong. Will you forgive me?”
- Stop doing it
But true repentance means not only saying we’re sorry for the direction we were going, but turning things around and believing/behaving differently. With God’s help, let’s transform our thinking and doing into the way Christ would think and do, loving as He would love.
- Receive grace
Even while on the cross, Jesus was forgiving those who were killing Him. That forgiveness includes us, too. His love exceeds all expectations. We please Him when we receive His gift of grace, and when we stop persecuting even ourselves for our own past (and future) failures.
We’re better ministers of the gospel when we forgive more and punish less. When we drop the Us vs. Them mentality. Let God redeem as He chooses.
Jesus wanted even the persecuted to be loved (Matthew 5:44). I’m glad. Because those who persecute others don’t always live on the other side of the ocean. Or believe a different world religion than us. Or stand on the other side of “that” issue.
Sometimes they live inside our own churches, our own homes, and even our own hearts.
Yes, Jesus, we pray for those persecute You. Even when it’s us.
Have you ever experienced any form of persecution?
Or dished it out yourself, even in small ways?
Please share in the comments.