Jesus warns us that in order to follow Him, really live for Him and proclaim the gospel publically and boldly, we should expect to experience persecution along with great joy. We are certainly not better than our Lord Jesus and He faced much persecution… we should expect it as well, if people can actually tell that we are followers of Christ.
18“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19“If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. 20“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21“But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.
It can be very frustrating and even emotionally and physically painful to be persecuted for Christ. There are many variations of persecution we may receive ranging from mild anger and bitterness towards us all the way up to physical harm. How we are to react in order that we honor Christ may depend on the situation, but we can learn a lot from reviewing the Biblical example of the prophets, disciples of Jesus, and Paul.
16It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling. 17Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.” 18She continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And it came out at that very moment.
19But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities, 20and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, “These men are throwing our city into confusion, being Jews, 21and are proclaiming customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans.”
Paul and Silas Imprisoned
22The crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods. 23When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; 24and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; 26and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. 27When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” 29And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, 30and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
The Jailer Converted
31They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. 33And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. 34And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.
35Now when day came, the chief magistrates sent their policemen, saying, “Release those men.” 36And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The chief magistrates have sent to release you. Therefore come out now and go in peace.” 37But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us in public without trial, men who are Romans, and have thrown us into prison; and now are they sending us away secretly? No indeed! But let them come themselves and bring us out.” 38The policemen reported these words to the chief magistrates. They were afraid when they heard that they were Romans, 39and they came and appealed to them, and when they had brought them out, they kept begging them to leave the city. 40They went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia, and when they saw the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.
We will not always face such harsh persecution as Paul and Silas. However, take notice that they reached the jailer and his family for Christ precisely by acting boldly in a way that is different than those of the world. Instead of reacting with anger and letting the jailer kill himself, then run away… Paul and Silas showed kindness and grace by calling out in time to save his life, even though it appeared at the time that they would have to remain in prison. This behavior was so different from what the jailer expected, so selfless, that it opened the door for Paul and Silas to share the gospel of Jesus effectively and reach the jailer’s whole family.
At the same time, Paul and Silas knew their rights within the government for not be treating in this way and they stood up for their rights as Roman citizens when they had the chance to do so. They in no way condoned the awful and unlawful behavior of those who persecuted them.
Prayerfully consider any areas in which you feel others are treating you badly because you live your life visibly different from the world, following Christ. How can you respond in a way that may open doors to sharing the gospel? (Hint: You seldom open doors to share the gospel with non believers when you act the way the world expects based on evil or selfish motivation.)
In my personal walk with Christ I have had to make personal choices to avoid responding with anger and bitterness when others verbally or in writing “attack” me for no good reason, other than my desire to live according to the commands of God in the Bible. They do not come to discuss and learn or share perspectives. They “attack” because they don’t want to even consider that their view is wrong. My prayerful consideration in these non-violent situations is that by responding with patience and kindness rather than raw anger I may get their attention… by demonstrating behavior that is different from the world. I know I will not always see the potential impact of this action in others, but I experience the righteous fruit of obedience to Christ in my own life when I choose to respond that way and I know there is at least the possibility that I may break down barriers that lead someone to experience the joy of Christ.
Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.