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Love Your Haters

John 15:17-25

http://gbcdecatur.org/sermons/LoveHaters.html

Matthew 5:10-12

10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

What an amazing, astounding, and unexpected statement from the lips of Christ. Why in the world would Jesus associate the ultimate sense of happiness and joy with persecution? We aren’t used to thinking this way, and yet Jesus said ‘Blessed’ = ‘congratulations’, it’s a great compliment to you when you are persecuted!

Why are the righteous persecuted? Have I ever truly been persecuted? If not, why not? And if so, then how did I respond? Did I rejoice and find motivation in it, or did the devil get His way and did I succumb to the temptation to become discouraged and clam up in the future? Did I retaliate and get resentful?

This teaching about persecution is laced throughout your Bible, from OT times to these gospels, throughout the epistles and on into Revelation.

Matthew 10:17

But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;

Matthew 24:9

Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.

2 Tim. 3:11-12

Persecutions, afflictions...I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. [12] Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.

1 John 3:13

Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.

Love your haters!

Throughout the history of the Church there has been great persecution. It all began with Christ and His sufferings, and then His disciples as they began the early church in Acts.

There were the 10 great persecutions from AD 100-300, where Christians gathered from all over the known world were thrown to the lions in the coliseum. Nero had Christians wrapped in animal skins and smeared with their bloody scent so they would be attacked even more ferociously. Then he lit his garden at night with Christians wearing robes dipped in wax! Foxe’s Book of Martyrs tells of those pulled apart on the rack, boiled in oil, flayed alive, or roasted on a gridiron…and much more too gruesome to go into.

Christians were forced to flee from Cathedrals to the catacombs in Rome to get away from the persecutions. An estimated 2-4 million died there over a period of 300 years.

During the dark ages an estimated 50 million Christians died for their faith. Many of those were killed for ‘protesting’ the heresy of the Catholic Church during the “Holy Wars” and conquests.

When the communists seized China about 1 million Christians were slaughtered. Yet the house churches are thriving today, even in the face of death if caught. Bibles are still being confiscated.

Russian believer Richard Wurmbrand is a good example of persecution under communism. This man was held underground in complete darkness for 3 years, brainwashed with communist and anti-Christian propaganda, as well as beaten and tortured. He tells of being force fed salt, and given no water for hours afterward. And in a mockery of the Lord’s supper guards made him eat his own feces saying ‘Take, eat, this is my body.” Then they would do likewise with his urine as the blood of Christ.

And sometimes entire church bodies are attacked, burnt, or its members slaughtered...

Ill.--Years ago, when communism still held the Soviet Union in its iron clench, a little group of Christians met behind closed doors in the underground. This was a secret meeting...a secret church service.

Suddenly, the doors burst open, and 2 soldiers appeared with sub-machine guns. They shouted, “To all those who are willing to renounce Jesus Christ: You’ve got 5 minutes to leave! Everyone who remains will be shot immediately.”

As you can imagine, every Christian in that place began to search their heart, and ask themselves, Am I willing to die for Jesus Christ right now, today?

A few got up and left, ashamedly, quietly, they left with heads hung low. Most of the people stayed. As the last one left, a soldier shouted, is that it? He held up his gun and repeated, anyone else? Another man rose and ran out. The soldiers locked the doors, and turned toward the people…

…they laid down their guns…and said, “Brothers and Sisters, we too are Christians. We do not want to worship the Lord with anyone who is not willing to die for Him! Now that the half-hearted have gone, let’s have church!” What a service they had together that day!

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