Meanderings

Blessed Are the Persecuted? – John 15:18-27

In our time, in this country,
Christians I know come up to me and talk about the threats they see
to our nation.  They see problems:

  • When someone says that the Ten
    Commandments should not be posted in the public square.  (Of course,
    we ask which set of ten, numbered differently in the Judaic, Roman
    Catholic, and Protestant traditions are we to post in a “Christian”
    nation?)

  • When someone says re-instituting
    prayer in school would return the nation to better climate.

  • When we find it difficult to meet
    as Christians in the public square or find it difficult to gather
    publicly in a church.

In seasons of stress many of us
remember the “good old days” and become frustrated with the here
and now.  Perhaps the greatest problem with reflecting casually on
the “good old days” is that we tend to remember a season of
comfort and complacency as good, rather than as a season of rest
before further exertion.

In chapters 14-17 of John’s Gospel,
Jesus gathered his disciples together on what he seemed to know would
be a last night together.  Last week we remembered Jesus promising us
a better place in the future … a place where there will be room
enough for all.  Jesus went on to say that until that time we should
rely on the Holy Spirit to teach us about the WAY, the TRUTH, and the
LIFE (John 14:6).  In the opening verses of the fifteenth chapter
Jesus tells his disciples that their love for each other will be the
sign that transforms the world.  “Greater love” he says, “is
this, that a person lay down their life for their friend” (John
15:13).  Jesus goes on to say these words:

[Jesus said] "If
the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you.
If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own.
Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of
the world–therefore the world hates you.  Remember the word that I
said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their master.’ If they
persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they
will keep yours also.  But they will do all these things to you on
account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.  If I
had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now
they have no excuse for their sin.  Whoever hates me hates my Father
also.  If I had not done among them the works that no one else did,
they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and
my Father.  It was to fulfill the word that is written in their law,
‘They hated me without a cause.’  When the Advocate comes, whom I
will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from
the Father, he will testify on my behalf.  You also are to testify
because you have been with me from the beginning (John 15:18-27,
NRSV).

If what we encounter is persecution,
even in our day, Jesus says we should expect it.  The world hated
Jesus, he chose us to step away from the things of this world, so the
world will hate us as well.  This is why you will rarely hear me
feeling sorry for Christians not getting their way in the American
society.  Jesus promised us that the world is dangerous and his word
is Truth in this regard.  But this is not new.  When the church is
being the church, the world will attack.

I am also inclined to remember our
history differently. Our African-American sisters and brothers are
not as anxious to return to a time when there was no persecution AND
everyone knew their place.  We easily forget there was a time when a
person was judged by their sex or race and not the content of their
character.

And when the world attacks, Jesus said
this, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for
in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you”
(Matthew 5:12).

When facing persecution we need to lean
forward into God’s future as well as lean back into the everlasting
arms of Jesus Christ.

  • In a season of PRAYER, remind
    yourself of those moments when you knew God was present in your
    life.

  • What was going on in your life?
    Why was God present to you?  REJOICE in that moment and celebrate
    Jesus’ presence.

  • What new thing do you need to
    depend on God for now?  We are called to PERSEVERE with Jesus in the
    face of struggle.