They Tried to Kill me-I’ll Go back and Preach

If you were an early evangelist, what would you do in dealing with a city where the people tried to kill you? Understand, when I say this, I’m not using hyperbolic language. Paul had been stoned and left for dead in the town of Lystra. So, what we see Paul do afterward is somewhat fascinating.

To set the stage, Paul had come to Lystra to preach. There he healed a man, and it got the attention of a crowd. IN fact, it got so much attention that the lost people of Lystra thought that the gods had come to them, and a priest from the temple of Zeus wanted to sacrifice to them. OF course, Paul and his companions would have none of that. But when they identified themselves as mere men and not the gods, when they called the crowd to stop what they were doing, the crowds turned against them and attempted to kill Paul.

Acts 14:19-23 – 19 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. 20 But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. 21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. 23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

It still stuns me every time I read this passage that, when Paul dug out from under the stones that the crowds had thrown at him, he got up and returned to Lystra. How could you go back? How could you ever walk through the gates of a town where the people had tried to kill you? Paul knew that his mission was not finished. HE knew that the gospel going forth was worth his own life.

As a fun side note, we will learn in Acts 16:1-3 that, when Paul returns to Lystra in a few years, he meets a young man named timothy there who will become a student and follower of his. Is Paul’s faithfulness to return to Lystra what God used to convert Timothy and give the church one of the greatest leaders of the first century?

Next, Paul goes to preach at a couple of other cities, returns to Lystra again, and does a couple of things before returning to his home church of Antioch. Look at the things that Paul did. These are the acts of a faithful apostle even in a city where the people had tried to kill him.

In verse 22, we see that Paul gave himself to strengthening the brothers in Lystra and the surrounding cities. Even when the people had tried to kill Paul, it was worth it to Paul under the leadership of God to strengthen the believers in that town. Paul knew that the church in that city was worth it. The followers of Jesus needed teaching. They needed strengthening. So Paul went back. Even though he’d had a bad experience there in his past, he returned for the good of the church, to encourage them to continue in the faith.

Notice as well that Paul said to the believers, “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” How true is this? How perfect are those words from the swollen lips of a man who had been stoned and left for dead not too long before? Paul knew. Believers need to know. God does not promise us an easy road from initial faith to heaven. The joy of salvation is real. The joy of worship and family and Christian living is real. And the truth is, the road from salvation to the gates of heaven is still full of hardships, trials, and tribulations. If you do not understand this, you will be shocked when you think that your Christian life is not working out. But God has always told us that there will be pain and sorrow amid our joy until we are in his presence forever.

Note one final thing Paul did. This is clearly a priority. And it is a thing still neglected by many churches. Paul appointed for the churches elders. The text says in verse 23, “And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” In every church (singular) they appointed elders (plural). God intends that the church have multiple pastors, multiple qualified men who will share in the responsibility of leadership, teaching, and care. Paul did not appoint one pastor and some administrative board to keep him in check. He appointed multiple men to serve the church as elders, which is a role we also call pastors or overseers. It was worth it for Paul to go back to Lystra, clearly risking his life, to help make sure that the local church there had a plurality of elders.

How important is the local church? What should your commitment to your local church look like? Paul went back into Lystra, even after people had tried to kill him, for the good of the local church. He returned to strengthen the believers, warn them of the genuine hardships that believers face, and appoint for them elders in their church. He wanted them to not lose heart. HE wanted them prepared for persecution. HE wanted their church to have a biblical model of leadership, a plurality of elders. And he thought all this was important enough to be worth the risk of his safety.

IF that work was worth it to Paul, then you too should be powerfully committed to your local church. Your church needs strengthening in the word. Your church needs someone who is willing to help the body know that this life will be hard, but serving the Lord is still worth it. Your church needs someone who will call for godly men to serve as elders. Your church needs the burden to be off the shoulders of a solo pastor and shared with others who can faithfully preach and teach and care and lead. Your church needs people who will not run at the first hard experience, but who will return to help other believers serve the Lord.

Now, there are times when it is time to leave a church. If the leadership is corrupt to the point that they will accept sin and not correct it, you might need to go. If the leadership will not faithfully handle the word of God, you might need to go. But in many a case, you should stay. You should work with the elders. If they will let you help, you should help to encourage the body. And you should make it a major part of your life to be about the strengthening of the local church.

Faithful unto Death

Toward the end of the first century, Christians in the city of Smyrna were facing a very difficult persecution. It likely had to do with the imperial cult. People were commanded to show their devotion to the Roman empire by performing an act of religious devotion toward the emperor. And failing to do so could cost believers social status at minimum. Eventually, refusing to worship the emperor would cost certain Christians their lives.

Revelation 2:8–11 – 8 “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. 9 “ ‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’

Notice a few things in the text above. AS Jesus speaks to this church, a church full of people facing death, he first identifies himself as the one who died and yet lives. Jesus wants to be sure that the Christians who face persecution do not think they are alone. The Lord Jesus has been there and done that. HE has suffered. He has died. And he has conquered death. That should give hope to believers, as we realize that our hope is in the one who already beat the grave.

Second, notice that Christ knows what is coming. Jesus can tell the people that the persecution is coming. HE can tell the people where the persecution will come from. And he can tell them how long that persecution will last. Even if ten days is a figurative term for a short period of time, Jesus is clear that this season will come, and it will go. Do not think your troubles catch Jesus off guard. Nor should you think that, just because Jesus loves you, he will always keep you from pain. God uses our hardships to our good and his glory.

Then notice how faithful Jesus calls the Christians to be. They are to be faithful unto death. Jesus knows that the coming persecution in Smyrna will cost Christians their lives. People will die under this one. And Jesus calls on his followers to be ready.

It is good for us to recognize that our service to the Lord can cost us more than discomfort. It can cost us our lives. And when we grasp that we could in fact die for our faith, it should have the effect of strengthening us. I’m not suggesting that we develop a morbid fascination with martyrdom, or we develop an attitude of pessimism that assumes defeat at every turn. But, I am suggesting that the Lord wants us to be prepared to face death on his behalf. And when we have accepted that we could die for our faith, we will be strengthened by God to face whatever is thrown our way.

Then, at the end of this section, Jesus says that the one who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death. Christian, understand that it is not the first death that we are to aim to avoid, but the second. In Revelation, we learn that the first death is common to humanity; it is physical death. There is a day to come when all who die will be physically resurrected. There is a first resurrection, the resurrection of those under the grace of God. They will rise to life and blessing forever. They will never face death again. There is also a second resurrection, a physical resurrection of all who have never gotten under God’s grace and have died as his enemies. Those will face the second death, a spiritual death, which is to be cast into hell forever.

Jesus is telling this church that their hope is in the resurrection. There hope is in the life that Christ offers. There hope is to be found in Christ, under his grace, and to live eternally with Jesus in perfect joy. Their hope is to avoid the second death because they have entrusted their very souls to Jesus. And folks who have the resurrection and life in front of them will be willing to face physical death in the here and now, because they know that there is not a second death to hurt them.

The book of Revelation speaks much about the hardships that Christians can face in this life. Whether it be something at the end of the age, or whether it be first century folks facing persecution, the message is the same. Christ is victorious. Christ has conquered death. Christ will give eternal victory to those under his care. So we can stand strong. Even if the world tries to take our livelihood or even our lives themselves, the word cannot take from us what matters. The word and the devil cannot take from us the eternal life to be found in Jesus who conquered death and who will raise us up to live with him eternally.

A Biblical Response to Persecution

Christians were persecuted in the past. Christians are persecuted in the present. Christians will be persecuted in the future. Christians will not be persecuted once Jesus returns. These may seem like simple truths, but we forget them quite easily.

In the United States, Christian persecution is a thing that is still hard to imagine. We assume that we are persecuted if a comedian takes a snide shot at people of faith or a news reporter says that we believe in myths. Some feel persecuted if a store clerk says, “Happy holidays.” And, I suppose you might be able to work the logic around until this is persecution. But, in the US, we do not find ourselves beaten or jailed for speaking the truth of Christ or for attending a service of worship, at least not yet.

All around the world, however, there are believers who are facing genuine hardships. True Christians are pulled from worship services, beaten, and jailed. Women are suffering horrible mistreatment at the hands of men who demand they identify with another religion. And, yes, Christians are being killed for the faith in the modern world.

What impact is persecution supposed to have on us? How are we to respond? IN the book of Acts, we see a scene where the apostles are persecuted by the Jewish religious leadership in Jerusalem. I think, if we pay attention, we can see a biblical response.

Acts 5:40-42 – 40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.

There are two responses to the persecution we see here that I want us to grasp. Understand, that this was genuine persecution. These men were beaten. Most people I know have never been beaten. I know that some have been, but most have not. We are not talking about a spanking here. We are not talking about a little slap on the face. We are talking here about a genuine, blood and bruises sort of beating.

First, the disciples left rejoicing. Stop and see that again. They rejoiced. Why? They rejoiced that they were counted by God as worthy to suffer for the faith. They saw the beating they faced, the persecution they endured, as an honor. They knew that, if God would let them suffer for the genuine preaching of the genuine gospel, he was trusting them to minister in his name. They knew that they were suffering, not for being obnoxious in general, not for their personalities, but for genuine faithful proclamation.

How does this response compare to most of our thoughts when we think about persecution? In our culture, we face less than beatings. WE face ridicule. We face harsh words. We may eventually face government opposition. A few, a very small few, have faced financial opposition through aggressive and illegitimate lawsuits in an attempt to make them comply with the culture’s embrace of sexual immorality. Some businesses have been vandalized or made the unfair targets of social media smear campaigns. But, at present, up until the point of this writing, most of us have not faced physical violence.

The disciples, who faced something worse than the vast majority of you who read this have ever faced, rejoiced in the face of persecution. They did not whine. They did not cry and start questioning the goodness of God. They did not scream, “It’s not fair!” They saw that the Lord was allowing them to enter a new phase of service, that of persecuted saint, and they rejoiced that they were counted worthy. Perhaps we should learn from that, stop whining if we are made uncomfortable, and rejoice that the Lord would count us worthy if he lets us suffer for his name.

I am not here saying that we do not engage in the legal system or the political process to try to make our nation more just. The idea of not whining about your discomfort is not a recommendation that you allow people to attack without recourse. If a person violates your legal rights or commits a crime against you through persecution, there is not a prohibition against you using the court system to seek justice. Neither is there any sort of prohibition against you voting or even running for office to try to set up a system that is more friendly to the things of God. My point is simply not to act as though you have been mistreated by the Lord if he allows you to face discomfort.

Then, the second thing we see the apostles do, they kept on preaching. Verse 42 tells us that they did not cease preaching and teaching. Yes, they knew they faced the threat of persecution. Yes, they knew that they faced potential beatings or death. But they kept at it.

Christians, when we face persecution, we too need to keep on preaching. We need to not compromise to meet the world’s standards. WE need to obey God instead of man. WE need to rejoice if we are allowed to suffer for the name of Christ, and we need to keep on preaching. If they call us names, keep preaching. If they try to shut down our businesses, keep preaching. If they tell us that they will take away our license to practice in our chosen profession if we keep preaching, keep preaching. If they pass a law that says no more preaching, keep preaching. If they throw us in jail, keep preaching. If they threaten our lives, keep preaching.

Christians, I expect that we live in a nation that will make things harder before they ever get easier. It is surely possible that persecution will come. If it does, will we respond as the Lord shows us here? Will we receive persecution with joy as a sign that the Lord has counted us worthy to suffer for his name? Will we stand strong and keep preaching, even when the world threatens its worst? May we honor Jesus by being faithful to the gospel.

Teaching Affliction

There are many running themes in the Scripture. When we study, we see that certain ideas find their way into book after book. These ideas are important, because they show us that God is completely consistent in his word to us. Examples of this include the true deity and true humanity of Jesus, the importance of the local church, the call to sexual purity, the need for Christians to love one another, the necessity of focusing on eternity, etc. You see the same principles of right thought and righteous conduct in book after book, author after author.

One recurring theme in the New Testament is one that we do not love, but which we must understand. Repeatedly in the New Testament, we see that the church of the Lord Jesus is destined for affliction and persecution in this world. I find that, as I prepare sermons or do personal devotions, I see a regular reminder that the lost world will not love the church.

1 Thessalonians 3:2-4 – 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, 3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4 For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know.

In the book of 1 Thessalonians, Paul tells of his concern for the church in Thessalonica after he was forced to leave the city. IN fact, Paul’s concern for those believers became so strong that he sent Timothy back there to check on the believers in that infant church. Thankfully, when Timothy arrived in Thessalonica, he found the believers standing strong, even in the face of worldly hardships.

Notice what Paul says about his teaching when he was in Thessalonica. Paul says that he repeatedly kept telling the young believers that Christians will suffer afflictions. During his time of preaching and teaching in Thessalonica, preparing believers for persecution was a commonly repeated theme.

The funny thing for us to remember in all this is that Paul was only in Thessalonica for around three weeks. He then had to move on. The apostle had only three weeks to try to pour into the Thessalonians important doctrine. And in that time, Paul says that he not only mentioned the possibility of persecution, but he repeatedly pointed out to them that hardships would come.

Now, believers, if you only had 3 weeks to teach a new Christian what they needed to know, what doctrines would you include? Of course you would teach them the gospel and the significance of Scripture. You would teach them about evangelism and the local church. Hopefully you would point them toward the return of Jesus and our hope.

But if you want to be consistent with Scripture, you also would need to be abundantly clear that a lost world will strive to bring hardships to believers. You would not do a young believer any favors by pretending that God will protect us from pain in this life. Instead, you would be wisest to help them know that persecution is part of following Jesus until he returns. Even in a 3-week crash course in the faith, you would, if you followed Paul’s pattern, speak against any notion of a prosperity gospel or an escapist theology. Instead, you would strive with Scripture to weave steel into the character of young believers so that they would be ready to stand in the face of worldly affliction.

Suffering, Persecution, and Christian Kindness

Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world. He lets us know that we are commissioned to go and make disciples. Paul is clear that we are to live simply and quietly where God has planted us. And all who truly know Jesus want to see people saved.

In many instances, this desire to see people saved is expressed in Christian kindness toward our communities. And this is a good thing. It is good when Christians take action to push back the darkness, to overturn the effects of the fall, and to show the world around us a better way.

But I fear that many church members and church leaders are confused about what will be the results of Christian kindness. I fear that many who are designing programs for community kindness are expecting that this kindness will make a lost world treasure the presence of the church. I fear that many pastors think that, if we are just nice enough, if we give enough, if we care enough, the world will embrace the church as a valued and welcome neighbor.

Is it true? Is it true that the church, if we are nice enough, will be embraced by the world? I would say yes, for a time. But in the long run, Christians need to understand that our acts of kindness will not reconcile us to a world that is in rebellion against the Lord.

Look at what Peter said to the church in his day.

1 Peter 4:1-5 – 1 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 3 For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

In that passage, Peter tells us a few things. First, Peter tells us to be ready to suffer like Jesus. Then he reminds us that we may no longer behave like the world around us behaves. WE cannot treasure what they treasure. And Peter lets the church know that, when we do not join with the world in their evil practices, the world will malign us. And Peter finally reminds us that the rebellious world will face the judgment of God.

Nothing that Peter there says would indicate that we can make the world love us if we are nice enough. Eventually, even if it takes years, the world around us will see us valuing the things of God. The world will see that we cannot go with them down sinful paths. And when they see that we do not go with them, they will have anger and malice stirred against us. But we are willing to press on and endure, because Jesus also suffered the malice of an evil world for the glory of God.

What is the application of all this? Am I suggesting that we not be kind to the world? Not at all. We are to love our neighbors. We are to reach out with the gospel. We ought to be the most kind and loving people on the planet.

What then? I am suggesting that we not be so foolish as to think that our kindness will make the world embrace the church. It may work for a bit. We may gain a good reputation in the community through activities of kindness. But, there will come a day when the world finds us standing on the opposite side of a line from them on some sort of issue. At that point, our past kindness will not avail us as much as we think. The world we now live in is completely willing to bounce in our bounce-houses, to eat our free food, to accept our community service, and then to turn against us the moment we do not support an immoral view of their activities.

Christians, don’t ever stop being kind. But also do not think that your actions of sweetness will earn you a pass in a harsh, hashtag driven world. I would suggest that you be careful shaping the focus of the local church too much toward PR campaigns. Those campaigns may earn you some time and some freedom, but Peter is clear that they will not last. The world will see you not traveling down their paths eventually, and their first response, according to Scripture, will be to malign you, not to say, “But they are so nice otherwise.”

Christians, genuinely love. For the glory of God, do good in the world. Care for your community because caring is right and looks like Jesus. But do not think that activities of kindness will keep the world from turning on you when you stand firm on biblical morality.

A Trite Accusation

The strategies of the enemies of God against the church of the Lord Jesus Christ have not changed much. The devil and his minions have a fairly thin playbook. Sadly, humanity is often so blinded to history and logic that the old plays work time and time again.

Consider the way that the people of God have faced destruction and persecution in times past. In Exodus, the Pharaoh ordered the murder of Hebrew infants in order to keep his government from being threatened by the people of God. In Daniel, a faithful man was throne into a den of lions for praying, because some wicked men convinced an emperor that prayer was a threat to his governmental power. When the Jews clamored for Jesus’ crucifixion before Pilate, they argued that Jesus was a subversive even as they declared, “We have no king but Caesar.”

We see the same strategy used in the book of Acts as Paul has preached the gospel in the city of Thessalonica.

Acts 17:5-9 – 5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. 6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” 8 And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. 9 And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.

See the same accusation. When the people of the city could not get hold of Paul, they dragged some of his friends before the authorities. And what words did they use as a weapon? They said of the Christians, “They are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” The Jews claimed that the Christians were subversives because of the authority of Jesus.

It is worth recognizing that this move is the very same play in the enemy’s playbook that we have seen used time and time again for thousands of years. Why? Because he will use it again. Look at our present culture. Watch the way that political winds are blowing. Watch for an Orwellian move in our government to strip people of their rights, to persecute, to punish, to imprison, to shame people based on our thoughts. The secularizing forces in our government cannot abide a genuine freedom of religion. There will be, if the Lord does not move in a massive way, a stripping away of the freedom of Americans to live as genuine Christians. And the argument that will be used will look like the one in Thessalonica, Jerusalem, Persia, and Egypt. It will be an argument that says that a devotion to the Lord is dangerous for society, because followers of God value their relationship with God more than they value the political leadership of the day.

The funny thing is, in all of these cases, the argument, besides failing to actually work, is patently false. Daniel was a faithful servant of the king. Jesus did not intend to threaten Pilate or any Roman government. Paul even wrote to the church in Romans 13 to submit to government and in 1 Timothy 2 to pray for all our leaders. In general, followers of Jesus are faithful citizens of the countries where we live. There are, of course, certain commands we cannot obey, commands that violate the law of God. But unlike people without a clear moral compass, Christians recognize that we are under the authorities that the Lord has set over us and will follow their lead so long as their lead does not violate the higher authority of the word of God.

But, Christians, be aware of what the strategy is. You and I will be seen as dangerous, subversive, backward. And a large part of that argument will be that we are submitted, not to the atheistic worldview of our society, but to Jesus. The world hates the Savior. And the world will not tolerate his followers.

What then do we do? We remain faithful. We pray for the opportunity to live peaceful and quiet lives in Christ as Paul commanded: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:1-2). We trust our God. And we continue to take the gospel to the nation. Jesus has all authority. He has commanded us to make disciples. And that is what we do, even in the face of a false and trite accusation that we are somehow subversive elements in society.

A Surprising Source of Persecution

Why does the world persecute believers? That is happening around the world at a surprising rate. But, why? Why would you want to attack a person, doing them physical harm, casting them from your society?

I think, if we stop to really put some thought into this, we will see that we are not as sure about why people persecute believers as we think. For example, in most countries, Christianity is not a political movement that is endangering the present governmental power structure. Genuine Christians have not historically been militant or physically aggressive. (Yes, I know about the crusades, and I reject that those had anything to do with genuine Christianity.)

At the end of the day, the world will oppose Christianity because the world opposed Jesus. The Savior told us that in John 15 and Matthew 5. But you are unlikely to get the world around you to say that directly either.

What has me thinking about this is the strange reason that Peter tells the church that the world will oppose the first century believers living in Asia Minor.

1 Peter 4:4-5 – 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5 but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

Peter says that the world will oppose the church because Christians will not join with them in their evil actions. Can you imagine? Is it possible that a major source of problems for believers is not that we stand and fight against the world, but simply that we will not join in with things we cannot morally approve? Isn’t the battle cry of the present culture one of tolerance?

I think, if you have watched anything from the political realm over the last few months, you know that tolerance has little-to-nothing to do with the world in which we live. In the US, there are groups who will only be satisfied with the full assimilation or elimination of groups who oppose them. You either join in with the new morality, or the new morality will try to destroy you.

In the book of Revelation, we read about the 666, the mark of the beast. You know that many people have debated that mark in many ways and drawn many conclusions. But one thing is often not said about it which should be said. Something about that mark, that stamp of belonging to the world, is the key to commerce. If you will not wear that badge, you will be put out of business and starved out of society. Ignoring whether or not that number refers to an individual person or whether or not it is a visible marking on the body, is it not telling that John wrote of a time when, if you will not be able to be marked as one of the society at large, the society will try to drive you from the very marketplace?

Christians, the world around us will not think that we are great friends of theirs who just don’t go and do all the things they go and do. If you think that your church will grow big and strong by convincing the world of our goodness by telling them, “We are just like you guys except for our faith,” you are missing the clear promise of the word of God. The world does not look at the church as a collection of nice men and women, treasures to the community, who just happen to lean right morally. No, they are shocked and offended that you will not leap with them into sin, and they will malign you. The world will see us as a threat, not for attacking, but simply for not applauding them. And If you do not see that, you are not reading much in the news.

But Peter also reminds us that the Lord is in control. Our God reigns. Our God is the righteous judge. Our God will call all people and all deeds into account. Our God calls all people everywhere to repent and come to Jesus for salvation. And our hope is not in becoming popular in the world today. Our hope is in being faithful to Christ and living under his lordship for eternity.

My goal here is surely not to leave us thinking all negative all the time. Not all who are not Christians will hate and malign believers. Nor are all towns destined to immediately become bastions of persecution. But we are foolish if we do not see that there are trends of this sort of persecution flowing through politics and higher education all over our land. There are corporations where Christianity and Christian values would get you fired. There are cities where businesses run by openly Christian families are unwelcome. Social media is full of virtue signaling and morality testing that growl to the world that if you do not agree with them, if you do not give to their cause, if you do not applaud their agenda, they will bring the wrath of the Internet down on your organization, shame you, boycott you, and put you out of business. (Note, Christians, I will also say to you that many of us have earned this behavior by practicing it first when Christians held more political sway in our country, so I’m not after us playing the victim here.)

Our point is that we must be ready to live in a hard world. Our lives need to be faithful. But we cannot expect acceptance from a world that is shocked that we will not leap with them into the same pool. But we trust our Lord, we know he will set the world right, and we live to his glory even when it costs us.