Romans 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
What does it mean to be persecuted? Can we think of a time or times where we believe we have been persecuted? Do those experiences, if we had them, seem more like they fall in the categories of insult or disrespect? Or, do they fall into the category of physical threat or intimidation? Were our lives at risk? Do we view persecution to be more of a general category where Christians as a group are ‘persecuted’ by being discriminated against? Might the Supreme Court decision in 1963 banning organized prayer in public schools be an example of such ‘persecution’?
When it comes to persecution, here in the West, it is a different world than that which many Christians deal with particularly in the Middle East, parts of Africa or the Far East. Although currently in the West the radical escalation of institutional intolerance and rejection of Christianity is stunning. I think it is accurate to say we would prefer to be prohibited from publicly reading or displaying our Bible than to be arrested for having one. Likewise, we would rather be ridiculed for our faith than to be imprisoned and tortured.
Think of being forced to choose between Jesus and a son or daughter or spouse. If you choose Jesus, the likelihood is that you will never see your family member again in this life. This is happening today and has been happening for decades in other parts of the world. Think of the 300 girls (nearly all are Christian) kidnapped by a terrorist group in Nigeria.
Persecution runs the gamut from being picked on or discriminated against to martyrdom. The amazing thing is that our response to those who do the persecuting is to be the same – we are to bless them. Hating them or cursing them isn’t an option. Not even cursing under our breath. This means that annoyance, anger, disgust and other ‘fleshly’ responses are off limits too.
I cannot help but think of two different scriptures that speak to this topic. Jesus’ statement in Matthew 10:22 “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Then there is the wonderful attitude expressed by the Apostles in Acts 5:41 “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”
We must learn to bless those who persecute us. We must learn to be the expressions of the Kingdom of God that He wants us to be in the face of opposition. Our goal must be to do it His way – bless and not curse!