Under the New Covenant, which is founded on the grace of Jesus Christ, the response of believers to persecution, murder and violence is completely different to that found in the Old Testament.
In this time when Christian persecution and martyrdom is happening like never before, we have to ask ourselves what does the Holy Spirit teach in the New Testament and how do we respond to violence in a Godly way? Our response in the natural may be to resort to arms, violence and revenge, but the question is how do we live by the Spirit, what did Jesus teach and live out, and how did the early church respond to the persecution of their day?
Let’s not forget that the early church converted the whole Roman empire through their willingness to die for their faith.
Maybe it’s a question that every one of us has to ask ourselves as there is no doubt that possible death and destruction is becoming more and more of a reality for many of our beloved brothers and sisters throughout the world.
Please pray for strength for the church across the world and all others expiriencing the horrible Islamic violence at this time. Pray that the Lord will reveal himself to Muslims as he did to Saul/ Paul. Send support to relief organizations helping the displaced in Iraq and Syria.
Here’s what the Scriptures say on some aspects of persecution:
Rev 20:4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God.
JESUS’S WAY IS DIFFERENT TO THE WORLD’S WAYS
Mat 5:43 Jesus said “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Luk 6:27 Jesus said “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.
FORGET NOT THAT WE WERE ONCE ENEMIES OF GOD
Rom 5:10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, Jesus, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Col 1:21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation–
THE GREAT APOSTLE OF GRACE, PAUL (SAUL), MURDERED CHRISTIANS
Act 8:1 And Saul (later called Paul) approved of their killing of Stephan. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.
Act 9:1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.
Act 9:3 As Saul neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.
PERSECUTION IS PART OF OUR FAITH
Rom 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
1Th 3:7 Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith.
Heb 10:32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
Heb 11:36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated– the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
Rev 2:10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.
RESORTING TO ARMS?
Mat 26:51 With that, one of Jesus’ companions (Peter) reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.
Eph 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood…
THE CHURCH IS BUILT ON THE BLOOD OF MARTYRS
Act 12:1 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.
Act 22:20 And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’
OURS IS A SPIRITUAL BATTLE & WAR
Eph 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Eph 6:11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes….. 6:17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Heb 4:12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword…
Rev 1:16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.