“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and falsely accuse you of all kinds of evil because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you”
Lord, I have to admit, I should have expected this, but I simply wasn’t prepared. You’ve warned me it would happen, yet I think deep within my soul dwells a sense of naivety—I didn’t want the possibility to exist. I have discovered just how blind to the reality I’ve been.
Several days ago, I was leaving work and greeted a person who works in another department. He is a confessed agnostic at best, viewing Your existence as only a possibility; defining Your character as removed and isolated from the day-to-day events in our lives. The concept of You desiring interaction with us has no meaning for him.
His history with Christianity is unpleasant and this well-read skeptic appears to spend a lot of time reading and researching what he believes to be evidence of all religions’ ill effect on the world.
Master, as You know, I’ve had numerous conversations with this young man in the past, and I’ve shared my testimony with him, not pressing for conversion, but sharing, as best as I’ve been able how You have changed my life.
Up to this point, it’s been me answering his questions. I had a genuine hope that in spite of whatever injury from others he has experienced in the past, maybe, just maybe I could show him how a true relationship with You (as opposed to some ceremonial ritual or declaration) can impact one individual.
On this particular day, the young man lashed out. “I believe you Christians actually want the rest of us to go to this hell you say exists!” He went on to condemn me based not necessarily on my actions, but on what he claimed were the insensitive acts of an unjust God: war, famine, earthquakes, poverty and of course on the examples of those who have committed atrocities in Your name. He went on to pronounce me guilty by association with anyone who claimed their actions to be authorized by You. Some issues he listed (the Crusades being an obvious lightning rod), I’ve had struggles with, as well.
I wanted to explain to him that I know, as often happens, righteous beginnings are frequently twisted into disastrous results through mankind perverting Your intentions and desire. I wanted to share mutual regret with him, but at that moment, he stepped over the line, “I reject a Judeo Christian God. I’m offended by you and your God who would allow such cruelty to others.”
The anger in him toward me and You was palpable. I think at that moment, Adonai, I acquired a better appreciation for the persecution of the Jews and martyrs of Christianity. I felt sadness for my adversary and myself―there would be no opportunity for exploring with one another Your incredible loving kindness.
When the young man made his declaration, blaming the world’s condition on me and You, my God, I wanted also to blame someone! Was it him? Was it those who have misrepresented You through the course of history?
Then a thought hit me. Am I indeed at fault? I need to be alert and honest from the standpoint that I do engage in actions, speak words and frequently leave things undone that adversely affect others. I don’t need to be guilty by association; I’ve got my own baggage and regrets I easily can confess.
OK, YHWH, I understand my involvement in all of this, but what got my attention was that I found myself also being offended by the young man’s accusation against You. I wanted to speak truth into the man―that You do NOT have baggage; You instead have a plan to dispose of my baggage. You are God, not an offending party.
Then I realized that all he was measuring You by―what most people measure You by―are the actions and inactions of Your followers.
In life, I will be the offender―it doesn’t matter, only You matter and I need to remember that. As a Christ follower, with You completing my incomplete and pathetic efforts, I’m viewed by others through a prism of contempt, measured by a standard I neither can live up to nor escape: Only You, Yeshua, have measured up―and for that You were crucified!
Messiah, even in that moment of death, You offered forgiveness. I may not ever be forgiven by the young man, but the model I’ll follow is Yours: I forgive him.With Your help, I’ll work at not being offended. Instead, I’ll strive harder to become a testimony to others of Your love as You are a testimony of love to me!
Do I feel persecuted? Yes. It’s a strange sensation, for I believe with all my heart that I am striving to better serve my fellow man as You, my God, have taught me to do. I would hope the world would recognize that desire. I would hope the world would recognize that same striving by Your people in the land of Israel and that of Your people in the land where I currently reside and in the hearts all of Your people.
Whether by choice or blindness, the world of nonbelievers doesn’t recognize it. I need to accept it is the world’s problem―not Your intent.
I get it, Lord. It means I not only must accept persecution as a reality, but that the more I strive to follow Your way, the more I’ll be blamed without forgiveness for my negligent actions and for those of my fellow believers.I’ll be blamed and judged harshly for believing in You and for serving righteously.
So, how will You have me follow Your intent Father? Show me more. How do I live the lifestyle―dying to self yet living for You in such a way that world is inspired rather than offended? Spirit, I understand it is You who inspires. My role only is to obey.
Persecution appears to be increasing in Israel and throughout the world toward Your people. Lord, Your will is not always easy to follow, even as you, Yeshua, demonstrated on the cross. So I ask for one thing from You to help me, to help all who offend through their belief in You.
Please give us shalom to endure.