Thursday, March 20, 2008


After a recent post of mine, and some comments that followed by Matthew, many thoughts came to mind. I remembered that in the past I had written about what I was thinking about, so below is a repost of my "Persecution" post from January 9, 2007. This was written before I had come to know many of you!

I should note that I do realize that Christians have been and still are persecuted for many different reasons around the world, and persecution is by no means limited to what I'm focusing on here. My focus here is on persecution from legalistic, religious people towards grace people. It's been going on a long, long time, going back even as far as Cain and Abel, although I don't go back quite that far here. :)


Why were Jesus and the disciples persecuted? Why were the people of the early church persecuted? And another important question - who persecuted them?

In Western Christian culture, we tend to think of persecution as "good Christians" being put down or made fun of by "sinners." But I guess I just don't see that happening to Jesus or to the early church. The persecution that Jesus, the disciples and the early church received was from the religious people! Jesus was not put down and mocked - and ultimately killed - because He went around telling "bad" people to start being "good." He was hated by the religious people because He put His arms around sinners. He supped with them. He loved them.

Jesus told His disciples, "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you" (John 15:18). It's true that many people today hate Christians. We've done a good job of making sure that's the case! But... I think we've gotten them to hate us for the wrong reasons! In fact, I think we've gotten the wrong people to hate us!

Jesus told His disciples, "They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service" (John 16:2). The people who hated Jesus and the disciples believed in God and wanted others to walk in His ways. But there was something "unsynagoguish" about Jesus and His disciples. I often think they would be kicked out of many of today's churches, too.

Again, who is it that did the persecuting, and why? Why was Saul standing there holding the coats of those who stoned Stephen? Then later, after Saul became a Christian (now known as Paul), why was he so heavily persecuted? Why was the early church so persecuted? Was it because they were "standing up for what is right!" (?) Was it because they were living such good, clean lives, that sinners all around began mocking them and calling them "goody two shoes?" Was it because they were protesting all the anti-Christian behavior that was going on around them, attending rallies and carrying signs and trying to get "moral" laws passed?

I realize that the point I'm making flies in the face of the modern church... :) But the people doing the persecuting were often the goody-two shoes, the religious, the law-abiding legalists! The ones being persecuted were persecuted for rejecting Moses and embracing Jesus. "For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17).

Saul had been a man who had great confidence in his flesh. Later, when he became known as Paul, he would testify about his past life, before coming to know Jesus: "If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless" (Phil 3:4-6).

Saul had gone around persecuting these new Christians who had rejected that way of life and instead embraced Christ. But then Jesus came to him. "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" (Acts 9:4). After his conversion he realized how he had been so far from the truth. Saul's former "testimony" was cleaner than that of the squeakiest clean of today's squeaky clean Christians! But he turned away from that testimony to that he could have Christ instead.

He went on to share about his turning away from that law-abiding way of life: "But what things were gain to me (the things listed in Phil 3:4-6), these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as dung, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith..." (Phil 3:7-9).

Paul turned from his law-abiding life (he counted it as "dung") to a Christ-abiding life. There is a huge difference. The first way seemed like it should bear good fruit, but it only bore fruit unto death. "For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit unto death" (Rom 7:5).

Paul may have spent the latter part of his life in the chains of men, being persecuted by his own people for rejecting their ways, but he lived in perfect freedom, the freedom for which Christ had set him free!


  1. Your January, 2007 post is right on, Joel. It's true that most persecution of Christians comes from religious people. That's true in Bible times. It's also been true down through history.

    If you think about it, true Christianity has always been a threat, because you can't control God's grace. It comes as a gift. You can't earn it, and that is threatening.

    I can't think of a religion that isn't based on rules and control. (I'm including the political religions of the 20th century, like communism and fascism, that were also threatened by Christians.) Whoever makes up the rules of the religion, whether it's the emperor, the pope, or the fuhrer, controls the people in that religion.

    God's grace cuts through all that and sets up a relationship based on His love for His people, and their response to that love. Is there any wonder why it's called good news?

  2. When the apostle Paul told Timothy that all who live Godly in Christ will suffer persecution the meaning of that word is one of being pursued and as the Christian being the prey. In Christ God is working within us and Satans dominion knows who we are as he knew who Jesus was. We are automatically prey in this life and are being hunted down. My wife and I watched the movie Jumper. I go occasionally to the cinimea but not as often as I once did due to lack of interest and finding the things of Christ to be more blessed that 2 hours in a movie house, but still I enjoy a flick...I always have. In this movie this boy discovers he has the power to transport and then begins a life of living without any consequence as some of us who have been saved by grace can sometimes slip into. The Paladins(the legalists who were trying to kill the jumpers for having powers like God) hunted them down always warning them correctly that you cannot go through life without consequences(this boy robbed the bank and kept money) and soon the chase was on. In the pressure he left his life of robbing banks and ran into a fellowshiping jumper who told him, "Welcome to the war!"

    All of God's children one day wake up to discover that they are being persued whether they are being as faithful as God desires or not. Soon the believer discovers more and more the divine life that he has been given as a gift from God and in the pursuit is chastened and disciplined into using these powers for the glory of God and not himself. Some believers discover this as soon as they are born again, but others like myself, unfortunately discover it later in life and the whole scope of God working all things for our good.

    In the meanwhile, the jumpers mother was actually a paladin who was protecting him and that is why the other paladin could not understand how they missed catching him for eight years. I truly see an analogy in God doing this and being faithful when we are faithless and the legalist growing irrate because we have been protected in the meanwhile, and soon the believer wakes up to how good God has been to him and what an incredible inheritance he has been given and to live it out as God desire in His grace.

    So whether we are as obedient as God craves us to be in his fellowship and union with himself we are still the apple of his eye and He is faithful that has promised. This drives the legalist nuts and it is why he is afraid to preach grace. Truly there are consequences there was in the life of Samson if we do not listen and cherish this gift and blessing and only to our own hurt as we reap what we sow, but we are in a life of pursuit from the enemy and great spiritual warfare as Daniel discovered when he prayed and was told that Micheal was held back by the prince of Persia for 21 days. There is something intensly eternal going on and the sooner we wake up as the jumper in the movie Jumper did, the better it is for our own good as well as for the legalist to discover what grace is and how good God is as well as what power God has.

    Grace upon grace,


    P.S- Also Timothy was a boy who was told by Paul not to be timid and that he was not given the spirit of fear but of power and love and of a sound mind. Like in the movie Jumper he was told, "Welcome to the fight the good fight." and he was told to remain in Ephesus because teachers desiring to teach the law did not know what they were talking about.

  3. Thanks for the comments, guys. When grace comes face to face with religion, religion will always be angry and will always persecute it. I like that you included political religions in there too, Richard. It's so true that grace threatens the controlling and manipulating aspects of any and all forms of religion, even including the Christian religion. (I'm sure you know what I mean by that... I'm not talking about true Christianity, but about religious, legalistic Christianity).

    Grace means freedom, and religion/legalism hates when people are free.

  4. You are right on Joel, we have the wrong people persecuting Christians for the wrong reasons!