1997-04-11 - Persecution, Part 2
A few weeks ago I did a devotional on Persecution. The topic covered attacks from the world and the response Jesus showed us. The question was asked of me, "What if a Christian is the source of the persecution?" My first reaction was to say it should be handled in a similar fashion. But, I quickly realized that was not the case. There are some things that are the same. There are rules of courtesy that govern all of us regardless of our standing with God or men. There are some things that are different, since we are now dealing with other Christians. These people are all esteemed by Christ as much as He esteems us. The Father called Jesus the First of many brothers, so we are brothers and sisters in Him. The difference is that this is a family.
The first thing we must always do, is never to think we are above the other party. If God has begun the process of showing you the true nature of your old heart, you will not be able to do this. We are told that our hearts are desperately wicked. We are asked, "Who can know it?" Or who can know what level of depravity and evil we are capable of living down to on our own? The mighty Apostle Paul bemoans that he does that which he does not wish to do that is evil. He continues to mourn that he does not do the good he wished he had done. If Paul struggled with sin in his mortal body, we should take heart!
It is also good to remember where you came from.
1 Cor 6:9-11 - Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God. (NAS)
"And such were some of you …". Lest we forget the tremendous debit we have been forgiven. Not unlike the ungrateful slave who had been forgiven a huge debt, only to have one of his fellow slaves thrown into a debtors' prison until he could repay the debt. How quickly he forgot the pleading feeling in his heart. You may think that "I could never do that!". Remember too that pride goes before a fall.
It is also important to remember where our brother or sister are at in their growth. Since we hear that there are those who 'still require milk', there are those who are not ready for meat. They may be less mature in spiritual matters. Christians, in sincere zeal, can be dogmatic in issues, forgetting the love that Jesus always showed His disciples and the people who followed to hear Him speak. Be patient with younger siblings, because someone before you was patient when you needed it.
Heb 5:12-14 - For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness,for he is a babe. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. (NAS)
There is one other problem. Not everyone who claims the name of Jesus Christ knows Him. Jesus warned us to be careful of false teachers. We are to be wary of people who would try to sneak in and sell us a bill of goods, physical or spiritual.
Matt 7:15-17 - "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 "You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 "Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. (NAS)
Jesus gave us a simple formula for dealing with divisions between Christians.
Matt 18:15-17 - "And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private;if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 "But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17 "And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer. (NAS)
This is obviously only for a serious problem. If it is some debatable,small matter, it is probably best to simply let it go rather than stir trouble up in the church. Always go to your brother first. It may only be a misperception, or a misunderstanding on either part. If you can't get two folks to back you up, then you must consider the validity of your position. This all also assumes a strong church leadership to maintain order and civility during the process of reaching out to this brother or sister in sin. If the leadership is not strong, you must discern the wisdom of taking your case to the church. If you feel you have been wronged and can get no justice, the Lord may be moving you on to a new place of ministry. Or you may need to stick it out and help the struggling church to grow. Prayer is essential in all these matters.
Lord Jesus, please give us patient hearts and wise minds. In dealing with our interpersonal relationships, we are so easily misread and misunderstood. We also do our share of mishandling situations. Thank You for the guidelines you have provided. Fill us with care and concern for our fellow Christians who may need it more than we know. Tough times make some people do foolish things they quickly regret. Help us to show the same grace and mercy to others that You have shown time and time again to us. Amen.