Summary: Sermon for International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. We’re to bless and not blast those who persecute us.
Getting Along With Others
Rev. Brian Bill
Have I ever mentioned to you that there’s a lot of persecution for Packer fans here in Illinois? I’ve told my dad this many times but I’m not sure he really believed me until last Sunday afternoon when my parents came down from Wisconsin and we met them at a local restaurant. They arrived before we did so they walked around for awhile, looking for a TV that had the Packer game on. They eventually found some guys watching a large-screen TV in another part of the building and went into the room and asked if they would mind flipping to the Packer game. One guy turned to them and said, “Packers? No way.” The others were equally rude and by their body language my parents knew they better leave. When my dad was telling me about this persecution I told him that’s just how it is in Illinois.
When I was studying the passage for today I realized that I have a biblical responsibility to bless and not blast Bears fans. In the face of persistent Packer persecution, I must take the high road and no longer denigrate those who were so easily defeated in the first game of the season. Here’s the verse we’re focusing on today from Romans 12:14: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”
Before we dive in, I want to explain a few things.
* We have joined with other churches in past years by focusing on the Persecuted Church on the second Sunday in November. Instead, we’re going to give attention to this a month earlier because the passage before us deals with how to handle persecution. In addition, November 8th is Adoption Awareness Sunday and this will allow us to focus on the needs of orphans at that time.
* If you follow the preaching schedule for our current series called, “Living Life on Purpose,” you’ll notice that the text for today was supposed to involve three verses. Because of the depth of Romans 12:14, we’re going to camp in just this one verse.
* As we go through this verse, we’re going to find ourselves wondering if it’s really possible to live it out. My guess is that you’re going to have some major pushback when you contemplate this passage. I should warn you ahead of time that it will be impossible unless you and I understand the rich doctrine of Romans 1-11 and that we’ve been saved and living surrendered lives as Romans 12:1-2 teaches. Apart from the filling of the Holy Spirit it will be impossible.
* While it’s going to be a challenge to practice Romans 12:14, I want us to work at committing it to memory. One of my goals is for each and every one of us to have this memorized before we leave today. It only has ten words. You can do it. Let’s try it out right now: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”
Did I mention that this passage is not popular and that it runs contrary to the inclination of our flesh? We’re to respond exactly opposite from the way of the world which says, “Do unto others before they do it to you.” Let me also point out that in New Testament times, Christians were targets for persecution of one sort or another.
The believers in Rome were blamed for a fire that swept through the city. As a result, the emperor Nero had scores of Christians slaughtered. One writer puts it this way: “Nero wrapped the Christians in pitch and set them alight, and used them as living torches to light his gardens. He sewed them into skins of wild animals and set his hunting dogs upon them to tear them to death. They were tortured on the rack; they were scraped with pincers; molten lead was poured hissing upon them… eyes were torn out; parts of their bodies were cut off and roasted before their eyes; their hands and feet were burned while cold water was poured over them to lengthen the agony. These things are not pleasant to think about, but these are the things a man had to be prepared for, if he took his stand with Christ” (From a sermon by Bill Prater, www.sermoncentral.com).
With that as background, it sure seems impossible for believers to bless those who are intent on harming them, doesn’t it? How many of you have ever had somebody in your life that you just couldn’t stand? Most of us want to write off those who’ve wronged us. Let’s take a closer look at this verse. We’re told to do something and then we’re told to not do something else.
1. Bless persecutors. We notice right away that the word “bless” is used twice, perhaps to underscore its importance and to emphasize the admonition. We can’t really say that we didn’t see it there or we’re not sure what God wants us to do. He repeats it just in case we might use an excuse or try to change the meaning: “Bless those…bless and do not…” The word comes from two words “to speak” and “well,” thus, to speak well of a person. Our English word “eulogize” comes directly from the spelling of the Greek word used here. To bless someone is to celebrate and praise them and to then ask that they might enjoy the blessings of God; that He would pour out His goodness, grace and mercy upon them. Now, let’s just admit that it’s much easier to praise someone who pleases us. How in the world can we give praise to someone who is set on persecuting us?