Saturday, November 15, 2008

A tough question to answer

A few weeks ago, someone posted a comment on our YouTube site that is still making me think.  He asked (pardon the grammar & misspelling of Nero), "would you imagine Paul or Peter beginning to asking to Herod or Neron to stop the persecution?"

Even if the grammar and spelling are terrible, the question is terrific. Can we imagine Paul or Peter asking Herod or Nero to stop the persecution of Christians? It has gotten me thinking about the biblical foundation for advocacy.  Having spent the best part of the past five years studying the biblical teaching on persecution, I have to admit that the biblical justification for advocacy is relatively slim.  The early church definitely saw persecution as an inevitable consequence of obedience to the command of Christ to reconcile a hostile world to God. Freedom from persecution did not even seem to have crossed their mind as a possibility.

Of course, there are other passages, especially in Proverbs, Psalms and the prophets that call for God's people to speak for the afflicted, but the context of most of these verses isn't really one of persecution but poverty.  So the question that still begs answering is the one to which the answer seems most elusive and which stares at me every time I look at our YouTube page.  What do you think?







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12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Before Jesus ascended, the apostles acted like us, concerned about fairness and equity here on earth. After Pentecost, I think they had the eternally focused eyes of Jesus and understood thatthey and others would suffer....my 2 cents

Anonymous said...

I cannot imagine the apostles asking for an end to persecution - for themselves. Although there were times when Paul did assert his Roman citizenship. However, I wouldn't have been too surprised to hear them speak up for others. Prov. 24:11, 12 has been an impetus for me to advocate for those suffering. I need to do it for my own spiritual well-being. Otherwise I can become apathetic and uncaring. This advocacy can demonstrate my love for my brothers and sisters. Perhaps the hearts of the persecutors might be touched as they see the love of Christ demonstrated. Eunice

Scott said...

In my view, Glenn, the answer to your question must be "yes". St Paul appealed to his own rights to prevent him from being flogged (Acts 22:25). Would he stand by and say nothing while other Christians were being persecuted?

Matthew said...

I think that while the Gospel seems to thrive in many cases under persecution, I can see the apostles asking at least for an end for persecution simply because they wanted many to trust in Christ and worship Him. An end to persecution, in general, would have given them more opportunities to preach to more people (not that persecution hindered them from preaching, just not so much in public.) I can see them asking for that.

While we must certainly recognize the blessings that God brings to the church through persecution, one also recognize the opportunities that the Gospel can have in places where people are totally free to preach, teach, and congregate-- I doubt that sub-Saharan Africa would be ~50% Christian now if not for the freedom with which evangelists and missionaries could work there (nor the blood, sweat, and tears sown on that continent for centuries beforehand.)

Anonymous said...

Glen, a while ago you told us about the book"Discipleship on the Edge".I bought it and am reading it.It is a book that i deeply appreciate because of the clear teaching.I am discipled by it.And to answer your question if we should ask for an end to persecution i found an answer in this book and i quote:"I know your pressure,"says th One who loves us.In the nature of things he cannot lift it.Sustain us in it,yes.Use it for his glory ,yes.But lift it,no.For his presence is the reason the pressure comes!When I remember that i can keep going.And even do so with a strange sort of joy."
from "DISCIPLESHIP ON THE EDGE" by Darrell W.Johnson.It is found in the chapter where he discusses the persecution that the church in Smyrna is facing.
Do I not wish then that all this persecution and heart rending grief and pain my brothers and sisters suffer inso many parts of the world?My heart cries out and weeps and burns in anger and yet I know that the dark night will come to an end and my heart cries out:O God give them and us the power through your holy Spirit to persevere............Suzanna

JANE said...

When I think of the persecution in the Orissa State in India, I can only think of the victory in the scripture 1 Corinthians 1:26-29. Is it for no reason that God has chosen to save the dhalits in India? He has promised to use the things that are nothing (us) to bring to nothing the things that are. So my hope in God for the dhalits is that God will bring to nothing the extreme discrimination and oppression which is the centre of the Hindu belief system and end the dhalit status for His Indian nation. So after all the persecutions I am looking to God to bring his people through to a good place. Like the end of a birth pang.

As for the UK, the Lord's word for me is Deuteronomy 6:4 and a word He gave "And now therefore, Israel, why speak ye not one word about bringing back the King". So I focus on prayer and advocacy to bring back our status as a Christian nation, worshipping the Lord. The complaints He has against us are great particularly that as a nation we have given up our God and our leaders are making broken cisterns that do not hold water. Jeremiah 2:8-19. And what we have let happen to our chilren Jeremiah 5:7 is our reponsibility. I am not a Paul or a Peter who had their momentous ministries which continue today, but I thank God for them and all the saints and try to find what He wants for us. So I am interceding and advocating for the children who are being targeted by the Devil, and I pray that the Lord raises up people who will bring Him back as this nation's God. I pray for those wicked who try to suppress the knowledge of the truth of Him to be revealed and brought to justice. And I feel that in this nation this will not come without a cost, but I just obey the Lord's word to me, "And now, therefore Israel, why speak ye not one word about bringing back the King".

Anonymous said...

I must say that it aint quite true that Biblical arguments and/or justifications for advocacy are slim. Just take the following examples:

"He has showed you O man what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)

and

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for He has appointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that the captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors and that the time of the Lord's favour has come." (Luke 4:18-19)

Both verses show a distinct concern on the part of God Himself for the liberation of those afflicted by oppressive circumstances, whatever the nature of these may be. These are only two such examples out of a whole host of Biblical exhortations about favouring righteousness over unrighteousness. Paul, in Romans 12:9 emphasizes the importance for Christians to "be sincere in love for others. Hate everything that is evil and hold tight to what is good." This clearly draws the line between ethically sound and unsound living.

I do not think that we are to desire oppression to come upon us because God wants all of His creation to be restored unto a right relationship with Himself and between all members, and this restorative justice culminates in the pervasion of harmony througout all the earth. However, when we must struggle against the tides of oppression, there are times when different tactics of response to these oppressive tides are required and I think that contextually dependant tactics or responses are to be considered necessary in the face of oppressive onslaughts such as persecution.

Parakletos said...

Hebrew 13:3 says Remember. John 18:23 points out the offence by Christ of persecution. Matthew 5:44 says pray for those who persecute you. Galatians 6:2 carry each other burdens. 1 Tim 2:1-3, pray for kings and rulers this please God. No where does it ever say anywhere in the bible regarding persecution that we should speak to rulers or kings to stop the persecution of Christians. Nor does it say we are to become involved in the politics of perecution against our brethren. This would mean that ministries such as this should remember what pleases God. This lesson is for us all. When we step out of the biblical guide for our feet, we step into soulical and fleshy motivation. Filthy rags before God. It will not improve our brethrens state or bring glory to God. God's instructions are simple, remember to pray and share in each others burdens. If this is what VOM is doing then they are in the will of God. If they promote telling rulers and authorities of persecuted Christians what they are doing is wrong and harass them with letter writing schemes. These are not bringing glory to God, becaue He never asked us to do them.

Parakletos said...

Through the examples of the disciples and apostles of the bible God gives clear direction on how to serve the persecuted: remember, Heb 13:3, share and do good, Gal 6:2.10,. For the persecuted pray Matt 5:44. Does God in His word say to write letters to the rulers of countries of persecution? To the jails where our brethrn are persecuted? God is not interested in our tactics or adaptation of using the world's view of how to approach persecution. Persecution God's tool to build shape and mold characters that bring Him glory through the suffering of Jesus Christ. It is His demonstration of Christ on earth to the wardens, guards, and rulers of this world that Christians would rather suffer and die, than see their persecutors go to hell. Anything that God has not told us to do is just filthy rags.
2 Tim 2:15
God's pleasure is 1 Th 1.2-3

Anonymous said...

I don't think that there is any reason that we should not speak out for others who are being persecuted. Perhaps I can't imagine Paul or Peter simply calling for the persecution of Christian's to cease, but I can picture them speaking to anyone clearly about the truths of the Gospel, so at the very least this should be done.

JANE said...

Jeremiah says, "Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just, so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and the needy, so all went well. Is this not what it means to know me? declares the Lord." Jeremiah 22:15-16 . We know the Lord does not want OUR sacrifices, He wants us to know HIM.

Do look up the word "oppressed" in a concordance and see how many times the poor (who are the oppressed) are mentioned.

We do not have to argue about Scriptures, we have a Living God who will resolve all our issues and each one of us should seek Him for His will for our lives now. He has sent the Holy Spirit to teach us and to show us the way. Don't just "search and search the Scriptures" like the Pharisees", as Jesus says "but you don't come to Me" - seek His face.

Barrie said...

The Apostles stood up for their legal rights as it is written, "Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good" (Titus 3:1) but also practiced civil disobedience where the law in letter or practice differed from the command of God.