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And All Men Shall Hate You
On Account Of My Name


(Matthew 10:22-23 NKJV) "And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. {23} "When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
(2 Timothy 3:12 NKJV) Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

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Persecution of Christians is becoming increasingly common with 146,000 known martyrs to the Christian faith last year (1996). Churches are being burned, pastors imprisoned and beaten and missionaries shot to death. Most of this persecution is occurring in Islamic and Communist countries.

One of the apostles who suffered persecution was the apostle John who was exiled on the isle of Patmos. He gives us a great example to follow:

(Revelation 1:9-11 NKJV) I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. {10} I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, {11} saying, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last," and, "What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea."

God comes in with a crash! Here the aged exiled apostle is having a very nice worship session in the Spirit on the Lord's day and suddenly it gets loud, noisy and visionary! "A loud voice as of a trumpet" interrupts his island reverie. Then there is work to do and a book to write. The aged exiled apostle is not allowed to be pensioned off in peace! The original name given to the apostle John and his brother James was "Boanerges" meaning 'Sons of Thunder'. (Mark 3:17 ) Perhaps he was comfortable with loud noise! That is almost beside the point. What is the point is that no human being or government or even old age can make us of no use to God. In human terms he was out of the race, isolated on an island and aged. Some perhaps would have written the apostle off. But the apostle did not give in and was finally used by God in a marvelous way. How do we know that he did not give up...lets find out!

John expected the Christian life to have its share of difficulties. " I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ."

John saw the church as a fellowship of those who were brothers and companions in the tough times as well as the wonderful times. Not only was there peace and love and joy in Jesus but there was "tribulation" as well. Tribulation well endured brought about the "kingdom" but we had to wait for its arrival hence the "patience". The three (tribulation, kingdom, patience) go together in Jesus Christ. John was a realist and saw the tough times as being just as much "in Jesus" as the wonderful times.

John knew why he was there. He was there " for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ." Even his exile had a purpose! He had dignity in his exile because he was not there as a thief or a murderer but as a Christian. In the sovereignty of God he was on Patmos for Jesus. He did not say "on Patmos because I have been unjustly treated by those barbaric pagan Romans..." there was no whingeing just glorying in God.

John kept on being a good Christian and a worshipper of Jesus. "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, ".

John just kept on doing what he had always done. Exile changed nothing. The aged Daniel did the same when the prefects and satraps devised a law that no-one could pray to anyone besides the King. He just kept on praying. He was around 80 when he was put in the lions den! John was a similar age on Patmos. Habit was stronger than fear. He just kept on doing what he had always done and let God take care of the rest.

How then can we tackle suffering as Christians? We can follow John's examples and a couple of other exhortations that Jesus gives us.

Firstly expect the Christian life to be tough. This was also Paul's expectation:
"(2 Timothy 3:12 NKJV) Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution."

Secondly know what you are about. John knew he was on Patmos "for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus". That puts iron in your bones. Clear, strong worthwhile purposes are of enormous value in withstanding suffering. Viktor Frankl the Jewish psychiatrist was interred in four Nazi concentration camps and observed of those that survived that they had a clear specific and often very concrete purpose that kept them living. A man who can find a purpose to hang on to in the midst of suffering can overcome anything. Keep on doing the right thing even though you are being punished for it. Jesus did and Daniel did and Paul did and John did.

Just keep on doing the good you have always done even though they do not like it. Make righteousness an unbreakable habit and you will survive suffering. A missionary in Central America called Queno was falsely imprisoned recently. While in jail he quietly humbly led three hundred people to Jesus. He didn't let injustice and pain and prison stop him doing good for Jesus. If the Devil can stop you then he wins. If you simply refuse to stop no matter what - then you win. Pray for those who persecute you.

(Matthew 5:44-45 NKJV) "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, {45} "that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

We are to control our tempers and our fleshly reactions and spend time in prayer for those who would harm us. Move out from under the persecution especially if it is life threatening. (Matthew 10:23 NKJV) "When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

Jesus Himself often avoided his persecutors and there is no shame in this. People full of religious bigotry are "blinded". If people are too angry to listen you will do them no good by staying and just harm yourself and your family. Move away until things calm down. We need to be astute. We need to be wary and cautious in such times.

(Matthew 10:16-17 NKJV) "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. {17} "But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues.

If you are reading this on your PC then you are probably not dead or in jail! You are probably not in a re-education camp in China or being buried alive upside down in hot sand in Saudi Arabia. But you well may be facing trials and tribulations because of your faith. You may not get the promotion you want, you may be ridiculed, your family may oppose your convictions. Because of the stand this magazine takes on certain issues I fairly regularly get abusive e-mail and even death threats (about 4 death threats a year, its not an everyday thing).

This at first irrational hostility can be very perplexing and frustrating and it can hurt to be misunderstood and hated for something as good as the gospel. It helps to know why you are being hated. The Bible lists at least 20 reasons why people will persecute you:

  1. Because the works of the persecutors are evil and ours are righteous.
    (1 John 3:12-13 NKJV) not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother's righteous. {13} Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you.

  2. Its programmed to happen as part of the lead up to the imminent return of Jesus Christ.
    (Matthew 24:9-14 NKJV) "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. {10} "And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. {11} "Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. {12} "And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. {13} "But he who endures to the end shall be saved. {14} "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

  3. Because hatred, malice and envy are natural to the old nature.
    (Titus 3:3 NKJV) For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.

  4. Because persecutors have no knowledge of God and even hate Him. (John 15:21-23 NKJV) "But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. {22} "If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. {23} "He who hates Me hates My Father also.

  5. Because those who hate are in spiritual darkness and have been blinded.
    (1 John 2:11 NKJV) But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

  6. It's a standard response to convicting spiritual truth.
    (Matthew 5:10-12 NKJV) Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. {11} "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. {12} "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

  7. Because of the clash between people who live according to the flesh and those who live according to the Spirit.
    (Galatians 4:29 NKJV) But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. Because the name of Jesus is offensive to many people.

  8. Because we represent Christ and His Name
    (Matthew 10:22 NKJV) "And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.

  9. Because the word of God arouses some to hostility. (Matthew 13:21 NKJV) ..For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.

  10. Because religious leaders are often threatened by the gospel. (Luke 11:46-49 NKJV) And He said, "Woe to you also, lawyers (experts in Jewish religion)!........ "Therefore the wisdom of God also said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,'

  11. Because of the "offense of the cross".
    People with religious pride are take offense when they hear that their good works are quite insufficient to get them into Heaven but that they need the cross of Christ and His grace. (Galatians 5:11 NKJV) And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased.

  12. Because the gospel introduces many changes and includes people all people not just a special racial group.
    (1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 NKJV) who killed both the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they do not please God and are contrary to all men, {16} forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved, so as always to fill up the measure of their sins; but wrath has come upon them to the uttermost.

  13. Fear of being exposed by the truth
    (John 3:20 NKJV) "For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.

  14. Because the gospel defies the absolute authority of rigid local traditions.
    (John 5:16 NKJV) For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.

  15. The world hated Jesus first, we are just following in His footsteps.
    (John 15:18 NKJV) "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.

  16. Because we are not of the world but distinct from it.
    (John 15:19 NKJV) "If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

  17. As part of a power struggle against God and Jesus Christ.
    (Acts 4:26 NKJV) The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the LORD and against His Christ.'

  18. Because new converts to other faiths are often very zealous e.g the Hellenistic Jews were struggling for acceptance and persecuted Christianity in order to be accepted as true Jews. (Acts 9:29 NKJV) And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him.

  19. Because the gospel threatens certain types of trade (e.g. drugs today). (Acts 19:25-27 NKJV) "Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade. {26} "Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands. {27} "So not only is this trade of ours in danger of falling into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worship."

  20. Because a servant is not greater than his Master. (John 15:20 NKJV) "Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.

So we can see that the persecution of Christians is absolutely inevitable. It is due to the very warp and woof of the moral Universe we live in (or rather the immoral universe - Paul calls it "this present evil age").

This means we will never stop persecution of Christians though we should certainly exert pressure to have it stopped. When we do have access to government we should use it on behalf of God's Kingdom. There is no need to be persecuted more than is absolutely necessary.

 

This article may be freely reproduced for non-profit ministry purposes but may not be sold in any way. For permission to use articles in your ministry, e-mail the editor, John Edmiston at johned@aibi.ph.