Persecution and Forgiveness (by David Peterson)
Jesus, in His discourse on the beatitudes at the beginning of His Sermon on the Mount, states in the 8th beatitude:
“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Our Lord is saying that as faithful believers we are fortunate, and should not be surprised to be hated and reviled. As we endure and suffer attacks we should rejoice in His glory.
Pastor Charles Swindoll once wrote: “Scripture never tells us to forgive ourselves. When we try to ‘forgive’ ourselves, we are attempting the impossible. Forgiveness assumes an innocent party has been wronged, and it is the job of the person who has been wronged to forgive. The offending party is the one that receives forgiveness. We are the offender; God is the one who has been wronged, since our sin is rebellion against Him. By focusing on forgiving ourselves, we have taken the spotlight off of God and pointed it at us – making it doubly difficult to let go of our sin! He has forgiven us. We must simply receive that forgiveness and rest in it.”
Swindoll’s focus on forgiveness is important in light of what Jesus said because those who persecute can inflict great pain and sorrow on us. Jesus warned us of our plight when we confess to follow Him. While we are blessed to endure persecution we are also blessed with abundant forgiveness, both our own and for others.
Horatio Spafford wrote “It Is Well With My Soul” when confronted with enormous sorrow after losing four daughters in a boat disaster. His 2nd stanza reads: “Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, let this blest assurance control, That Christ (yes, He has) has regarded my helpless estate and has shed His own blood for my soul”. Trials, tribulations, and even persecution may come but Jesus consoles us, and saves us, in these inevitable dark times.
Let us pray: Dear Magnificent Savior, persecution as your followers may haunt us but your love and grace will reward us with an eternal walk with you. Bolster our endurance and grant forgiveness to our tormentors.