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Love Your Haters

John 15:17-25



Matthew 5:10-12
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

What an astounding and unexpected statement from the lips of Christ.  Why in the world would Jesus associate the ultimate sense of happiness and joy with persecution?  We aren’t used to thinking this way, and yet Jesus said ‘Blessed’ = ‘congratulations’, it’s a great compliment to you when you are persecuted!


Why are the righteous persecuted?  Have I ever truly been persecuted?  If not, why not?  And if so, then how did I respond?  Did I rejoice and find motivation in it, or did the devil get His way and did I succumb to the temptation to become discouraged and clam up in the future?  Did I retaliate and get resentful?


This teaching about persecution is laced throughout your Bible, from OT times to these gospels, throughout the epistles and on into Revelation.

Matthew 10:17

    But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;

Matthew 24:9

    Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.

2 Tim. 3:11-12

    Persecutions, afflictions...I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. [12] Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

1 John 3:13

    Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.


Love your haters!


Throughout the history of the Church there has been great persecution.  It all began with Christ and His sufferings, and then His disciples as they began the early church in Acts. 


There were the 10 great persecutions from AD 100-300, where Christians gathered from all over the known world were thrown to the lions in the coliseum.  Nero had Christians wrapped in animal skins and smeared with their bloody scent so they would be attacked even more ferociously.  Then he lit his garden at night with Christians wearing robes dipped in wax!  Foxe’s Book of Martyrs tells of those pulled apart on the rack, boiled in oil, flayed alive, or roasted on a gridiron…and much more too gruesome to go into.


Christians were forced to flee from the Cathedrals to the catacombs in Rome to get away from the persecutions.  An estimated 2-4 million died there over a period of 300 years. 


During the dark ages an estimated 50 million Christians died for their faith.  Many of those were killed for ‘protesting’ the heresy of the Catholic Church during the “Holy Wars” and conquests.


When the communists seized China about 1 million Christians were slaughtered.  Yet the house churches are thriving today, even in the face of death if caught.  Bibles are still being confiscated.


Russian believer Richard Wurmbrand is a good example of persecution under communism.  This man was held underground in complete darkness for 3 years, brainwashed with communist and anti-Christian propaganda, as well as beaten and tortured.  He tells of being force fed salt, and given no water for hours afterward.  And in a mockery of the Lord’s supper guards made him eat his own feces saying ‘Take, eat, this is my body.”  Then they would do likewise with his urine as the blood of Christ.


And sometimes entire church bodies are attacked, burnt, or its members slaughtered...

Ill.--Years ago, when communism still held the Soviet Union in its iron clench, a little group of Christians met behind closed doors in the underground.  This was a secret meeting...a secret church service.

Suddenly, the doors burst open, and 2 soldiers appeared with sub-machine guns.  They shouted, “To all those who are willing to renounce Jesus Christ:  You’ve got 5 minutes to leave!  Everyone who remains will be shot immediately.”

As you can imagine, every Christian in that place began to search their heart, and ask themselves, Am I willing to die for Jesus Christ right now, today?

A few got up and left, ashamedly, quietly, they left with heads hung low.  Most of the people stayed.  As the last one left, a soldier shouted, is that it?  He held up his gun and repeated, anyone else?  Another man rose and ran out.  The soldiers locked the doors, and turned toward the people…

…they laid down their guns…and said, “Brothers and Sisters, we too are Christians.  We do not want to worship the Lord with anyone who is not willing to die for Him!  Now that the half-hearted have gone, let’s have church!”  What a service they had together that day!


The result of the persecutions was a pure church, a unified church, a growing church, a serious, separated, sold-out church!

The church historian, Tertullian summarized it well when he wrote, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”  Persecution fans the flames and stokes our souls!


And it’s happening today:  Countless Christians have died in the revolutions in Africa in the last few decades, with so much in Nigeria right now.  In the Sudan, Syria, Pakistan, Egypt, Libya, etc., great persecution is underway, thousands have been killed, many more tortured and threatened.  Some buried alive in the desert sun as punishment.  But the winds of persecution are only fanning the flames of revival!


And today the rise of “the wild man,” Ishmael, aka “Islam”, has led to the barbarous torture and killings of many more than the media will report on, and all because they are deemed to be ‘infidels’.  That number includes many Jews, and many Christians. 


This is persecution in severe form.  But it comes in many other forms than just physical violence.  Millions today in more than 100 countries are imprisoned for their faith in Christ. 


Currently in the US, no one is being asked to die for Christ.  But some today are persecuted when they lose their job because of taking their stand about something.  We have people right here who have been affected for taking a stand not to work on the Lord’s Day.  Some may be denied advancement in their workplace, or endure sneering and jeering and whispering of others around them when they read their Bible on break.


Some are rejected by their families for converting.  This happens all over the world, but also right in the USA.


You will receive persecution when you are rejected by someone you witness to, or when a door slams in your face on a visit.  What is important is not HOW you are persecuted, but THAT you are [if living right], and HOW you respond to it.


And when we see good people suffer, we are tempted to doubt, and when we ourselves experience trial and persecution in our own lives, we question God, “Why do the righteous suffer, while the wicked prosper?”


I don’t have a great answer for that, but I can tell you it has always been that way…since the beginning, even until now!


Think about it:

Abel was righteous…Cain was wicked…Cain killed Abel!

David was a man after God’s own heart, why is he constantly dodging spears chucked at him?

Why is Daniel, the purest in the kingdom, thrown into the lions’ den?

John the Baptist was referred to as the best man ever born of woman, and they beheaded him!  Truth is, persecution can even come at the hands of other Christians who slander you or attempt to be superior like the Pharisees.


The Bible says, “All who live Godly in Christ Jesus SHALL suffer persecution! (not MIGHT, but SHALL)  If you take a stand against immorality, abortion, homosexuality, you'll be laughed at and called out as being an uneducated, closed-minded bigot, and worse!


The Reasons for persecution:  Why do they hate us?

1.     Because of our difference.

Jn. 15:19

Mt. 5:10 - 'for righteousness sake'

Righteous comes from the Greek for 'divide.'

        And we are a dividing line in the world today. 


Christians ought to stand out in the world like a gardenia in a garbage can / diamond in a coal mine.


We are a reminder to them of their sin.

John 15:24
If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.


2.     Because of our devotion.

v. 21        'for my name's sake.'

Matthew 5:11
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

The world doesn't like Jesus.  Most who claim to like Him like a caricature of Him who is more to their liking than the real Jesus.


v. 20        They hate Jesus, and us as well, by association.


v. 22        Jesus rips off the cloke that covers their sin.


3.     Because of our dialogue.

The gospel is the message we carry to the world. 


There's many things Christians can do and receive no persecution.


Be honest when the teller gives you too much money, and you'll be applauded.  Help someone who needs it and all will stand and cheer.  But hand them a tract or try to share the good news of how their eternity can be changed and you're suddenly a bad guy for pushing that stuff.  We've gone from the ridiculous [separation of church and state] to the truly ludicrous [separation of God from all communication!]


Our response?

Don't drop to their level and respond in kind.  If they spit at you, they have sinned, but if you spit back, you sin, and burn that bridge!

Matthew 5:43-44
43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies [haters], bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Let God handle your persecutors!

Matthew 5:12
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Why rejoice when persecuted? 

Because it means you are making a difference!

It means you are earning rewards in heaven.

It means you are in good company!


“Have I, as a Christian, ever been persecuted?”

        If not, why not?

        And if so, how did I respond?  Don’t retaliate, but as Jesus said, rejoice! 

Listen to this verse that follows the disciples being persecuted:

Acts 5:41

    And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.


If you live a life of faithfulness to the Lord, and if you live a separated life, showing a distinct difference in Christ, and if you profess that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that people need to be saved from their sins, you WILL suffer persecution.  That is a promise.  But there's promised blessing!

Romans 8:18

    For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.


Jesus was rejected by most, but not all!  He came unto His own, and they rejected Him…they did not praise Him, and the world won’t praise you if you are like Him.  But not all will reject you…there are many who are looking for what is truly real, and I hope they see it in you! 


Paul was persecuted often for telling people the truth.  But that’s what they deserve…they deserve to know if their house is on fire or if they have cancer!  Then the ball is in their court and it’s up to them to respond.

2 Cor. 12:10

    Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.


Matt. 5 also says we are the light of the world, and light always exposes darkness, so often those of darkness hate those in the light…but some will be attracted to the light!

It also says ye are the salt of the earth…and sometimes salt irritates….but other times we will create a thirst for God in some, who may come then to drink of the living water!


Our missionaries tell me their people feel sorry for American Christians, whose idea of persecution is having a door slammed in their face on visitation, or a friend laugh at them if they witness to them.  Good grief, we feel like a suffering martyr today if the power goes off for an hour!


But as we approach the end of the world, though we will not go thru the tribulation, Jesus made it clear that the shadow of things to come will fall upon us in the form of perilous times.  And America may very well face extreme persecution of Christians in the future.  After all, we’re already spoken of in terms of divisive hate…terms like “radical right wing, conservative fundamentalists, born again extremists”!


We need to ask ourselves today, what if those soldiers burst into the doors of FBC right now…would I stay, or would I leave?


I did not share about the stories of those who DID recant.  Sadly, many stories exist…all too many believers have denied Christ under pressure, like the Apostle Peter did three times, following the crucifixion of Christ.  Of course, he repented and later took his stand for many years before becoming a martyr himself…faithful even unto death.


I’ll be honest with you, in preparing for a message like this I had to do some serious soul-searching.  I said, “Lord, I feel so unworthy to preach this…Lord, I hope I would be faithful in the face of torture, but I don’t know for sure if I would be.”


I don’t believe any of us can know what we would do in that moment, though we hope we would not shame our Savior…

…but I will tell you today, there is one strong indication you can look for which will very much measure how likely you are to be willing to die for Christ, and that is, are you living for Him now?


With millions worldwide risking their lives on a daily basis just to attend underground churches, I must confess that I don’t have a lot of compassion for those who feel they are a blessing to us all by gracing us with their presence every few weeks.


If your faith won’t bring you back to God’s house Sun. or Wed. night, it is highly unlikely it would take you to the gas chamber, if called upon. 


A faith that does not bring words of witness to your lips in our land of free speech would not likely take you all the way to a burning stake to be a public testimony for Christ. 


If your faith can’t get the 10% our Lord requires out of your pocket, I doubt if it would get you to the chopping block for beheading! 


If your faith can’t keep you away from worldly amusements or can’t keep you from fleshly habits, it’s not likely it would take you to the lions’ den. 


A faith that doesn’t prompt you to obey in the smallest of matters like Bible reading and prayer wouldn’t bring you before a firing squad.


How do you know if you would die for Christ?  For starters, are you living for Him?

Rom. 12:1

        I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.


You can know for certain that you WILL NOT submit yourself as a dying sacrifice if you aren’t a living sacrifice right now!

God forgive us today for having half-hearted devotion…in light of those who’ve gone before us!


Lord, help us to live for you, and if necessary, to die for you!

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