Persecution and the Christian Life
by Tim Chaffey
A preacher once said, “If you don’t have anyone that is mad at you then you probably aren’t being a very good Christian.” That may seem like a strange quote coming from a Christian since God’s Word tells us “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12: 18). If we are to strive for peace why would we be failing to be “good Christians” if we are enjoying peace?
That’s a good question but it’s not too hard to find the answer if you look closely at the middle of the verse. We are told to live peaceably with all men but at what cost? It seems that Christians gravitate to one extreme or the other on a variety of issues. This is one of those issues. Some Christians seem content to purposely offend everyone. In this way, they feel that they are avoiding worldliness and experiencing the blessing of persecution (Yes, blessing!). In contrast to this position are those Christians who enjoy complete peace with those around them. They feel as though they are honoring Christ by obeying the command to live peaceably with all men. Which position is right? I would say “Neither one!”
The first position is unbiblical. Paul told the Colossians to “walk in wisdom toward those who are outside [the Christian faith], redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Col. 4: 5 – 6). Those who intentionally offend others for the sake of offending them are not following God’s commands.
The second position is also unbiblical. The New Testament repeatedly advises Christians that they WILL be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3: 12 reveals that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Notice, it does not say “might” suffer persecution. The only way to avoid persecution as a Christian is to neglect a godly lifestyle. The reason that so many Christians do not have anyone mad at them is because they are not living their lives in a way that stands out in this dark world.
So, is there middle ground between these two positions? Absolutely! Look at Romans 12: 18 again. Paul said that we are to live peaceably with all men inasmuch as it depends on us. If someone is angry with us because we live godly lives and speak the truth then that is beyond our control. In this case, persecution is something that should be welcomed not feared. Consider Jesus’ words on the subject. “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My name’s sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5: 11 – 12).
What does this have to do with apologetics? Quite a bit! Oftentimes, it is the apologist who is on the “front lines” confronting the enemy. As such, the apologist is under constant attack (see Rabid Opposition for a detailed look at some of this persecution). Some Christians see this and get the idea that this person must be doing something wrong if so many people are upset at him/her. As long as the apologist is despised for the sake of the Gospel then this idea is completely baseless; however, if the apologist is persecuted for some ungodliness in his/her life then Christians have a right to be concerned.
Another reason this topic is important to the apologist is that we have a duty to defend the faith from both outside and inside attacks. I have seen more than enough Christians who hold the second view listed above. The world loves them because they refuse to do anything that would upset the world. Sadly, these are often the first people to persecute a fellow believer when he/she speaks the truth.Christians should expect persecution but it is truly sad that so much of it comes from within the Church. Christians need to realize that there is a battle going on over the eternal souls of billions of men and women. Satan does not want anyone to believe in Christ so he will do anything to keep people from hearing and/or believing the truth. We need to stop helping him out by unnecessarily attacking fellow believers who are “fight[ing] the good fight” (1 Tim. 6: 12). If you plan to be a defender of the faith then prepare yourself for persecution and may God bless your efforts!
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