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“You will be persecuted.”

March 18, 2009

Warning: I’m musing here.

I was hanging out with a bunch of the girls at Puzzle Dust (woot!) a couple of Sundays ago as we studied through some of Mike Bickle’s notes on the Church of Smyrna in Revelation 2. The Church in Smyrna was not seeker-sensitive. The Church in Smyrna was severely persecuted.

In fact – kind of side note – if you Wordle the four short verses that address the Church in Smyrna, this is what you get:

wordle

Tribulation. Death. Dead. Hurt. Satan. Suffer. Devil. Prison. Fear. Poverty. Blasphemy. These are not words that you try to get on your church’s home page or bulletin. These are not key words you enter when you set up a Google ad.

Even as Jesus sends them a letter to encourage and exhort them, He warns them there is more suffering, prison and tribulation coming. You probably never heard anyone in Smyrna say something like, “I just need a word from the Lord today” after this letter.

And yet Smyrna was one of the two churches that didn’t get a correction in their letter. There was no “nevertheless, I have this against you” for Smyrna. Smyrna is the rule, not the exception.

Matthew 5:11 – “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.”

Matthew 10:23 – “When they persecute you in this city, flee to another.”

John 15:20 – “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.”

Naturally, the conversation quickly turned to things like Voice of the Martyrs, testimonies we’d heard, and – of course – horrible ways to die. I sat there listening to a half-dozen girls talk about drowning, bullets to the head, whippings, etc. and thought, “How weird that He would establish something that guarantees such persecution.”

Because Jesus does not condone persecution or personal violence, and is certainly not the one motivating the persecution of the Church.

It’s obvious – however – that there is evil in the world, and evil will naturally fight God. It always has. The more I thought about it, the more I realized Jesus was prophesying, not prescribing, persecution. Which makes His preaching on persecution merciful, rather than weird, I guess. It helps to be warned ahead of time.

And yet I wonder how often the disciples sat around and wondered, “Can’t there be another way? Couldn’t He – as, you know, God – come up with something that doesn’t involve so much pain?”

As I sit here musing (over my Panera box lunch ’cause a sales rep came by the studio for lunch today – I love that) I think I’m coming to some ideas about that, but what do you think? Do you think about bullets to the head, or having the bottoms of your feet whipped, at all?

I made a comment at one point that afternoon about how hard it is for me to believe that it’s going to come to that – in that measure – here in the states. It just seems impossible. And then Jen – hooray for history teachers – when into a short deluge about our national debt and weakening military. How about that?

What do you think? Where do you stand? What’s just around the corner? What’s paranoia?

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