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7th December 2014
It might seem odd to give a message about persecution the title: ‘Radical blessing’. But it’s clear that Peter is writing to a church that is experiencing persecution. The gospel will cause offence – it did in the days of the early church, and it does today.
Peter was writing to help Christians know that persecution shouldn’t be a surprise to us – we should expect it – but there is a way to handle it so we can stay standing.
Are you ever shocked by the way people treat you? Do you ever ask yourself, “Why am I going through this?” Jesus said that we would have trouble in this world and that if He was persecuted, His followers should expect to be too. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “When persecuted, we endure…” (4:12).
If everyone in your life is happy with you, maybe there’s a problem with the message you’re carrying. We carry a message of love, but the Bible says that the message is offensive to some – to some it’s the aroma of life, but to others it’s the stench of death.
Our call is to show love, regardless of how we’re treated – whether people love or hate us, we’re to extend God’s love to everyone around us. Christians aren’t supposed to be critical, judgemental, and self-righteous. We died to that. It’s not about us; we’ve been saved for love’s sake, to live for others, carrying God’s love to them.
When we take our eyes off our navels, and start reaching out to our neighbours, we find that we’re fulfilling God’s call over our lives.
Persecution takes many forms. In 21st century Britain, we don’t face death for what we believe, and persecution doesn’t take the form that it does in other nations. For us, it’s more likely to be ridicule, people thinking we’re nuts, mickey-taking, unkindness or unpleasantness towards us. But however it comes, hostility will come to those who follow Christ.
Our faith will be tested. How does it stand up under pressure? One thing we notice in the book of Acts is that when the church is persecuted, the gospel advances. That’s what we can expect too. When our faith is proven genuine in the face of persecution, we see the power of God explode.
We handle persecution by fixing our eyes on Jesus. It’s easy to be like Jesus when everything’s going very well, but it’s in exactly the dark and difficult moments that we are called to live and love like Jesus. Jesus didn’t say, “Just tolerate your enemies and slap those who persecute you.” No! He said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt. 5:44)
What does it look like to radically bless an enemy or persecutor? It’s asking for God’s favour upon someone; it’s extending love to someone regardless of whether or not you feel they deserve it; it is responding to unkindness with kindness, to hatred with love, to bitterness with forgiveness.
If you’re a Christian, the same Spirit that rested on Jesus at His baptism and raised Him from the grave lives in you! When we obey God and stay true to Him in the face of persecution, the Spirit of God rests on us in increasing power. We can never be separated from God or from His love. He is an ever-present help. Even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we fear no evil. Why? Because God is with us! Knowing these things helps us to endure persecution.
Our primary goal isn’t to sit in churches and be empowered to live increasingly moral lives. Our primary mission is to release the goodness, mercy and love of God’s Kingdom wherever we go. Our call isn't to change people; it's to love people.
To download the 'Radical blessing' sermon and life application questions, click here.
Posted by Santino Hamberis