“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. – Mat 10:34-39
How weighty are these words of Christ? How difficult to conceive? Many of us have never known this kind of contempt for our hope in Christ, and therefore may struggle to comprehend the depth of pain which would come from derision of our families over our faith. More than this, Christ assures us that there will be worse persecution yet, even to the loss of life. As I ponder this scripture, I am reminded of several men of faith who rested on the sure foundation of their faith, took a stand, and suffered earthly sacrifice for the cross of Christ.
How can we take time to think on persecution and not consider Stephan (Acts 7), our fearless brother who, for the cause of Christ, shared a testimony about the truths of scripture and was put to death. Of the martyrs of scripture, I can’t help but hold him in esteem for even in the face of sure death, he didn’t beg or plead for his earthly life, he didn’t try to reason with those who were about to stone him, he prayed on their behalf. His words often cross my mind when I consider, could I, in the midst of persecution, pray for those causing my pain?
– Acts 7:60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”.
Here, his heart was set not on saving his own life, for he was confident that work was accomplished in Christ. He, instead, showed his eternal perspective in that he was concerned for those who had rejected the cornerstone, that is, Christ, and prayed instead for mercy upon them.
I also think of the Apostle Paul, who, while ministering at Lystra was dragged out of the city by those of opposition who had come from Iconium and Antioch, and stoned. Yet, he was not deterred from the earthly mission he had been called to. He continued to bear the cross of Christ, with all its contempt, and faithfully serve the Lord.
Whereas we, Christians in the United States, may not often suffer physical persecution, social persecution is on the rise in our country. In this new social atmosphere, which is steadily more and more hostile to viewpoints antithetical to the prevailing syncretism, we are living as sheep among the wolves. This begs the question, to what point will you take a stand? Where will you draw the line? If persecution were to go past talk only, would you suffer for the name of Christ?
I am reminded of the old hymn Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken, by Henry Francis Lyte:
Jesus, I my cross have taken All to leave and follow Thee
Destitute, despised, forsaken Thou from hence my all shall be
Perish every fond ambition All I’ve sought or hoped or known
Yet how rich is my condition God and heaven are still my own
Let the world despise and leave me They have left my Savior too
Human hearts and looks deceive me Thou art not like them untrue
Oh while Thou dost smile upon me God of wisdom, love and might
Foes may hate and friends disown me Show Thy face and all is bright
Go then earthly fame and treasure Come disaster, scorn and pain
In They service, pain is pleasure With Thy favor, loss is gain
I have called Thee, “Abba Father” I have stayed my heart on Thee
Storms may howl and clouds may gather All must work for good to me
Soul, then know thy full salvation Rise o’er sin and fear and care
Joy to find in every station Something still to do or bear
Think what Spirit dwells within thee Think what Father’s smiles are thine
Think that Jesus died to win thee Child of heaven canst thou repine
Haste thee on from grace to glory Armed by faith and winged by prayer
Heaven’s eternal days before thee God’s own hand shall guide thee there
Soon shall close thy earthly mission Soon shall pass thy pilgrim days
Hope shall change to glad fruition Faith to sight and prayer to praise