Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. – Romans 12:14
In the middle of Romans 12 – a very specific list of ways in which these Roman Christians can strive to live as true disciples and true worshipers – Paul writes this one very simple command. It’s simple, but it’s not easy.
We consider it an evil that people are persecuted for their ethnicity or politics or religious beliefs, and it is. But it’s one that we should expect. Paul tells us here how to respond when it comes. For me, this begs two questions:
What is persecution?
Growing up, I was taught in Sunday School that when people made fun of you because you went to church, that was persecution. Sure people in other parts of the world faced more extreme versions, but for us, in our culture, getting picked on was persecution.
This is not persecution.
On September 22, a church in Peshawar, Pakistan, was attacked by suicide bombers. Scores were killed or injured. Why? Because they were Christians.
I believe that we are moving inexorably toward a day when American Christians will face real persecution. Laws are being changed that reflect our nation’s march away from tradition Judeo-Christian morals. It seems all are “tolerated” except Christians. One day, we’ll be persecuted, but it’s not today.
Are we responding as we should?
In America, we Christians fight for our rights. We refuse to be persecuted. We will not be looked down on. Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek. Paul tells us to bless the persecutor.
When the persecutors took Him, Jesus walked willingly to His death.
Does this mean we should simply give in? I don’t think so. But it does mean we need to do a much better job of keeping our egos (our pride!) in check. It’s not about our rights. It’s about blessing those who persecute you. It’s about being Jesus to all those around us – even (and maybe especially) those who hate us.
What can we do differently?
We can be blessings, even when others hurt us.
We can attempt to share in (to what extent we can) and relieve the suffering of those in the world who are persecuted. How do we do this? Take the time to learn what is happening to Christians around the world, and help them.
Watch this video, created by a pastor in Pakistan with a direct link to the church in Peshawar that was bombed. (Warning: it is graphic.) Learn about what the folks at Voice of the Martyrs do, and then join them in their work however you can. Pray for those who are persecuted. Visit or write the prisoners.
Let’s stop fighting for our rights and start fighting for the souls of those who need Christ.