Have you ever suffered persecution because of your stand for Jesus Christ? Unfortunately, this is a reality that we must all face. In 2 Timothy 3:12 we read, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” We should expect persecution from the world because when we become a new creation in Christ, our values and all that we stand for has changed. We are different from the world in more than just what we do; at the very core of who we are, we have become different. Persecution from the world is expected. As a matter of fact, it is a reality and there is no getting around it. But what about those times when we end up enduring persecution from our own family—the family of God? What about when the persecution and the attacks aren’t coming from the world, but from within the Church? We are completely taken off guard, and we often don’t know how to respond. Because we are taken off guard, our first response is to attack back. We lash out in anger, and then we create a division in the body that only hurts the cause of Christ. Maybe you have experienced this kind of persecution, and you have been left clueless as to how to deal with it. I propose to you that the way we are to deal with this type of persecution doesn’t differ much from how we are to deal with the persecution from the world.
As a Christian, one of our defining characteristics is to be our love for one another. John 13:35 says, “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Later in 1 John 4:20,21 we read, “If someone says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” It is clear that, as a child of God, we are to love one another. We are to seek love above everything else. King Solomon gives us some perspective of how to seek love in the midst of being attacked. Proverbs 17:9 says, “He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends.” The word translated “cover” in that verse literally means to conceal, or to hide. If we want to be one who seeks love among the brethren, then when we are attacked or persecuted from within, it will be our mission to conceal those things, to hide them from others. Our first response is quite often the exact opposite. We want to tell as many people as possible to get them on our side. This doesn’t solve the problem. It only causes division, which ultimately ends up hurting the cause of Christ and our effectiveness in reaching the world. The one who seeks love doesn’t repeat a matter, but rather he covers it. I know this approach tends to step on our pride a little bit. But remember, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)
So, the next time you are faced with a situation where you are under attack from within the Church (or from the world), remember, seek love and cover up that transgression. Don’t worry, God knows what you are going through and He has promised to repay evil (Romans 12:19). He has not asked us to repay evil for evil, but He has commanded us to repay evil with love! Above all seek love, and then sit back and watch God be given the glory! That should be our purpose for everything that we do (1 Cor. 10:31), but that’s another article.
Rev. Kevin Reed, Senior Pastor
Grace Evangelical Free Church, Rockford