Summary: To exhort those being persecuted to leave all matters into the hands of the ONE , who has said "Vengeance is mine".
The Command and a Call
“Winners do not do different things, they do things differently”…wrote the wise management guru Shiv Khera in his book “You can win”. I want to rephrase this sentence oozing wisdom slightly and put it this way “Christians may not do not do different things but they are commanded do things differently”. Take the matter of dealing with those who persecute us. We have been commanded (nothing less) to LOVE THEM (Matt 5:43-48)!
Christians, who have been at the receiving end of communal persecution for no fault of theirs in the state of Orissa in India and many others going through similar kind of persecutions across the globe, would doubtless find obeying this commandment very, very difficult. But when we consider the fact that that this commandment has been given for our good, perhaps it would become easier for us to obey it. What do I mean, by for our good? Examine the following verse carefully and the answer would emerge
“Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” –Heb 12:15b (NLV)
Who suffers the most, when there is bitterness in your heart? Is it not YOU who is harbouring bitterness? No second thoughts on this score, please! For it is said that bitterness of spirit, is like an acid in a vessel. It corrodes and destroys, the very vessel in which it is stored. We are the ones’ who would suffer from increasing hypertension or mounting glucose levels, whenever we nurse a strong desire to get even, with someone who has wronged us. Our health deteriorates, even as the impelling desire to get even consumes us. Would it not serve us well then to hand over (I admit it is easier said than done), all our grievances to the ONE, who has said, “Vengeance is mine” (Deu 32:35/Romans 12:19).
The claim “vengeance is mine” is no empty boast of the ONE, who has “settled scores” countless times historically. Jesus handed over Himself to His Father, even as His enemies (Jewish religious leaders and many other Jews) subjected Him to inhuman treatment. Add to His physical and spiritual anguish, the torment of people mocking Him, at the foot of the cross (Matt 27:39-43/I Peter 2:21-23), and the picture of extreme provocation with a capital P would emerge. But did the Son of God threaten to get even? NO! But would the Father keep quiet? The devastation of Jerusalem and the massacre of more than one million Jews in 70 AD is a chilling reminder of the fact that God keeps His word for good…ALWAYS…be it in the matter of blessing or even “settling scores” on behalf of His wronged ones’!
It is indeed surprising that Scriptures bear witness to the fact that godly souls, who would not as much as harm a fly had more enemies, than one can remember. In this Sermon, for better understanding of the
a) Exemplary measured response of devout souls to persecution and
b) God’s ways’ of dealing with enemies of His dear ones’
I have categorized the adversaries into 3 groups…
I. Enemies stronger than us
II. Enemies as strong as us and strange, as it may seem
III. Enemies weaker than us
all with an intention of inspiring my committed Church members to commit their ways in the matter of persecution into His omnipotent hands.
Let us go step by step
I. ENEMIES STRONGER THAN US
Now the Early Church had a crisis. Acts chapter 12:1-4 somberly records the fact that apostle James, the brother of Simon Peter was put to the sword and Peter himself was imprisoned by the envious King Herod. Now this Monarch could not simply digest the soaring popularity of these early Christian leaders amongst the masses, hence the cruel reaction. While King Herod’s reaction was one of brutality borne out of his jealousy, what was the response of the Spirit filled First century Church? Did it reeling under the weight of unjust persecution invoke God’s curses upon the cruel tyrant? NO FAR FROM IT, IT SIMPLY PRAYED FOR THE RELEASE OF PETER FROM THE JAIL.
Even as we see Peter being miraculously delivered from the prison (Acts 12:6-11), we need not even go beyond the 12th chapter of Acts, to see Divine comeuppance catching up with the heartless potentate Herod in a most melodramatic way. Scriptures point soberly that this Herod, who dared to “poke his finger into the apple of God’s eye (Zech 2:8)” by persecuting His dear ones’ was eaten up alive by maggots (Acts 12:23). Eaten up by worms, after dying is normal but whilst still being alive! Herod got his just desserts alright!
Now did the Early Church in the aftermath of cruel persecution at the hands of this brutal despot, lift as much as it’s little finger to exact vengeance? NO!