Blessed are the Persecuted: The Christmas Wars
It’s the most wonderful time of the year when we enjoy time with our friends and family at Christmas- themed gatherings. At least that is a reality for some Christians but not all of us. Many Christ followers find religious holidays such as Easter and Christmas to be difficult times to spend with family; especially if family members are unbelievers.
Encouragement for the Journey
I would like to take time today to encourage those of you for whom Christmas gatherings are less wonderful and more warlike. Let’s begin by looking at 1 Peter 1:1, a passage in which Peter addresses his audience as aliens who have been scattered throughout various geographical regions. Peter is writing to exiles, people who have lost their homes, friends, families, and livelihoods because they have chosen to follow the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is unlikely that many of you reading this article today have lost your job for the sake of Christ, but I am fairly confident that a bunch of readers experience scorn and ridicule and perhaps even have been exiled from your family because you have made a conscious decision to live a Christlike life. Perhaps your family still accepts you, but you are uncomfortable in their presence as they consume enough alcohol to make them intoxicated, or they smoke or ingest marijuana while you are there. Foul language is everywhere in our culture, and Christians are often faced with the decision to speak up at how offensive we find it or suffer in miserable silence as God’s name is repeatedly blasphemed. When you do object, you are told to lighten up or get over it.
The very presence of a practicing Christian causes tension in the room. Many of the people you will spend Christmas with have known you your whole life, and they may have memories of your less than godly behavior and words prior to your conversion. Peter helps us understand their confusion in Chapter 4 verses 3 – 4:
For the time already passed is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you…
They want you to adapt to their behaviors, and you cannot. Refusing is part of the cost of following Christ. You will experience persecution as you live out your faith, and you can expect to be tested in some way if you gather together with unbelievers. If you withstand the test and refuse to defile yourself with worldliness, you must be prepared to pay the high cost that comes with standing alone for righteousness sake.
So how can you respond to their invitation to participate in worldliness or to comments and questions that are intended to provoke you? Take your first queue from Paul’s instructions to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:23 – 26. In this passage, Paul instructs Timothy not to get involved in foolish and stupid controversies because arguments will result. As a slave of Christ, you must not get involved in quarreling and malign no one (Titus 3:2). Instead, you are to be kind to them; be gracious and respectful as you interact with your unsaved family.
Be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ we put to shame (1 Peter 4:15 – 16).
You may still suffer the slings and arrows of persecution despite your godly response. There is no guarantee that Christians will not suffer for the faith. In fact, we find ample evidence to the contrary (Heb. 11:32 – 35; 2 Cor. 11:23 – 27; 2 Tim. 2:14 – 17). However, we also find God promises great blessings for persecution. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:10, also see Matt. 5:12; Luke 6:22,23; 1 Pet. 4:14; Heb. 12:2; James 1:2). Be encouraged, dear sisters! Your life and your witness for Jesus Christ will cause eternal reverberations; even if you do not see it today.