Marks of a True Christian – 7 Bless those who persecute.

 But Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12.9-21

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

The marks of the True Christian we have focussed on in vs. 9-13 are marks which we can see in many of our fellow human beings even if they do not own the name of Christ and this is a consequence of common grace. However as we come to v.14, the start of the second paragraph of our longer passage, we find, I suggest, a characteristic that should really set us apart as God’s people, but because of our fallen nature it is a mark which is often difficult to display.

Accepting persecution, not  simply passively but with blessing, is something very remarkable and can only be done in the power of the Holy Spirit.

When we do face persecution the urge to fight and draw on an armoury of defensive weapons is very great but Paul highlights only one – blessing!

This may seem somewhat theoretical to those of us living in a nation where,  in general, persecution is rare although we know from the media and organisations like Christian Concern and The Christian Institute, there are some who are very much in the front line.

The Ashers Bakery case in N. Ireland is one key example. Taken  to court for their stand over refusing to bake a cake with a message they could not agree with, their public behaviour was exemplary. They did not make themselves into doormats to be trampled over but they were measured in all they said and did, including defending themselves when taken to court and although I cannot quote chapter and verse, I have no doubt that they prayed for their accuser.

Daniel’s stand in the account of the Lion’s Den is a key biblical example as is the behaviour of Esther when her people were threatened with annihilation.

Persecution would seem likely to increase in the UK so let us note the call for blessing this morning and pray with and for those for whom such treatment is a daily experience. Such living and response make a powerful statement!

Bless and do not curse is linked here with persecution but it is worth examining how we react in more everyday situations. Someone pulls out in front of you while you are driving causing you to brake. Consider what goes through your mind and what comes out of your mouth! It is a fairly common and indeed trivial example but what we think and what comes out in private is often a worrying indication of what we actually are in our hearts.

So we do well to heed the Holy Spirit’s admonition through Paul as we go about the business of this day, to bless and not curse.

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