So there has been so much discussion about the persecution that Jesus Believers (aka Christians) are facing in Nigeria. As a result of this, various schools of thought have emanated, school 1 believes that this has lingered far too long and we need to rise up taking arms and address the issue, some have gone as far as quoting this scripture (the kingdom of God suffers violence and the violent taketh it by force.) Another school of thought, school 2 believe that ‘come on guys, arms? Seriously?’ fighting is not the solution, that it is the will of God, and if God wants to do something about it, that we should suffer it and pray for God to change their hearts, thus taking the passive role (to be honest, I used to be part of this school, lol). The third and final school of thought is surprisingly the most prominent amongst all, proponents of this school believe that the Lord should arise and strike down his enemies by fire, quoting a number of scriptures in the old testament where God killed the people trying to withstand and bringing opposition against his children (the Israelites). I do not in fact discredit the veracity of any of these schools, but would love us to take a second look at guidance through scripture. I therefore introduce school 4, the Scriptural school.
Jesus in Mark 10:29 speaks about the hundred-fold increase potential of the Word of God and in following him. However, also guarantees that a further corollary of following him is strong opposition and persecution as some translations put it. This shows that God identifies that there is a price paid by all who do his will, a price not set by God, but simply the hordes of hell. How do we know this? Because Jesus was said to be the full image and representation of God, so if He said so, then God said so.
So we now know that indeed persecution is a resultant factor of following God or being Christ-like (“Christian”) as even Jesus the first born of many sons was persecuted. James 1:2-4 MSG puts it this way, “consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”
It is however important to put a balance to this before we proceed. The blessedness in persecution is only revealed when it is on account of Christ and the gospel of the good news (Matthew 19:29), if you are being punished for a human law that is broken, that is not persecution but right and consistent retribution. Peter puts it this way, “if you are abused because of Christ, count yourself fortunate. It’s the Spirit of God and his glory in you that brought you to the notice of others. If they’re on you because you broke the law or disturbed the peace, that’s a different matter. But if it’s because you’re a Christian, don’t give it a second thought. Be proud of the distinguished status reflected in that name.” (1Peter 4:14-16)
So as Christians, we have seen that persecution is a consequence of following Jesus just like how riches are a consequence of God’s blessings (Proverbs 10:22), what do we now do? Do we fight back? “Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for Eye, Tooth for Tooth’. Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘don’t hit back at all.’ if someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously” (Matthew 5:38-42). These were the words of our forerunner in the faith, who started the race and finished it. Jesus. So, the answer to persecution does not seem to be fighting back, as this will be completely inconsistent to this scripture and many others.
So if the answer isn’t fighting back, what then is? Prayer? We probably should pray that God should change the hearts of persecutors, or if they refuse to change, kill them (many people will put this more subtly and say something like they should encounter the power or fire of God) isn’t it? In 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, Apostle Paul was recorded to have been beguiled with an “infirmity” (which has been grossly misunderstood to be sickness, but if the whole chapter is read down and in context, it will be realised that the infirmity spoken of was actually vehement opposition and persecution as inflicted by an agent of the devil). Apostle Paul prayed three times for this “infirmity” (remember this is persecution) to be taken away from him, but every time he prayed, God told him “my grace is sufficient for you, my strength is perfected in your weakness” a.k.a Paul, I’m not going to kill those people persecuting you. Because they are just vessels in the hands of the devil and do not know what they are doing. It is God’s will for all men to come unto repentance so he isn’t going to take anyone of them away because they are being used as instruments by the devil. Do we think the great Apostle Paul if he had the power to, wouldn’t stop his persecution? Or God wouldn’t have slaughtered all of them? If God slaughters persecutors, Saul would have been dead before Paul could have been born because he was number 1 persecutor. Steven can tell you all about this. Do I therefore disregard the place of prayer? No, God forbid. What I am saying is prayer is better placed when it is accurate and in line with God’s will discovered in his word. From this passage, we see it is more accurate to pray for strength in time of need during persecution, than to be praying for God to magically change the heart of persecutors, or worse still, kill them.
What then is the answer to persecution? 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2 MSG “one more thing, friends: Pray for us. (why or what are we praying for?) Pray that the Master’s WORD will simply take off and race through the country to a groundswell of response, just as it did among you. And pray that we’ll be rescued from these scoundrels who are trying to do us in. I’m finding that not all ‘believers’ are believers”. From this passage, it can be inferred that it is when the master’s word sweeps through the country that believers will be rescued from such persecution. Furthermore, Paul admonishes Timothy his son in 1Tim 4:16 to keep a firm grip on the word of God, as both him (Timothy) and the people who hear him will experience salvation by it.
So, the answer to persecution today is the continuous deliberate preaching of the word of God as it is the power of God unto salvation. The point is: before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ’s word is preached, there’s nothing to listen to. So let’s not be dismayed, rather lets drop the weights, tie our laces and run the race that was set before us by fulfilling our responsibility of passing this good news of Jesus across to others, perhaps looking for a diffusive mechanism (semi-permeable membrane) to reach out. When people resist the gospel through your lips, it simply means the truth is getting too close for comfort and you are doing something right. (1 Peter 3:13-18). God bless you
Grace & Peace multiplied.