Let me ask you, have you been in a situation where people talk negatively about you or slander you for no good reason? Even of greater concern to you is that a lot of these people don’t even know you, have never met you, or know nothing about you? How does it feel to you? I am sure it hurts and it hurts a lot. The truth is, as long as we are on this side of eternity, people will hurt you and you will hurt others, either intentionally or otherwise. But this article is not about you hurting others but rather about you being hurt by others and how, as a child of light, you are to respond to it.
I want to be clear here. If they are talking badly (persecuting) about you and your character is in question, then woe unto you because evil people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. I am not speaking to you. However, if you are being persecuted because you are living a righteous life, and standing for Jesus then continue reading this article. My friend, the world will persecute you if yours is a lifestyle of righteousness. The righteous person is divided, separated from this world. You must earn it by being different. To be a leader worth your salt, you must take a stand. You must be willing to be different! Leadership is not for the faint of heart and if you want acceptance, then my friend, you are not ready to be a leader.
However, there’s a way you can escape persecution. First, don’t live a godly life. Second, don’t desire to lead. Just hobnob with the world and fail to take a stand or be distinctive, and you won’t suffer persecution.
To you who wishes to take a stand and be different, to lead a godly life, remember that enemy is no longer directing persecution to a person’s physical body (though there are parts of the world where this is still happening), but to the ego. He focuses on pride, the desire for acceptance, and the desire for status. The threat is no longer “If you witness, I’ll cut your head off,” no but more like, “If you witness, you might lose your job, your status, your friends, your influence-or someone might think you are strange.” The techniques the enemy uses today have a tremendous effect in a subtle way. He has found that it is very effective to kill the children of light by making them complacent, indolent, intelligent, rich, and socially oriented. The church has watered down its theology to accommodate the world. That is a more successful form of persecution than having all Christians boiled in oil!
So, what am I saying; when you’re different, they will pursue you, watching you like a hawk, trying to find some flaw, some difference in you. And when they find it, they find fodder, and they will use it against you and it’ll make them feel better as they condemn you. I experience this a lot in my life. When I stick my neck above the crowd to espouse a biblical virtue, and the attack is instant. They lie about me and make false accusations. However, I am reminded that the most righteous person who ever lived, Jesus Christ, was crucified on the testimony of false witnesses. So, I expect it. This does not mean it does not hurt, it does, tremendously, but I expect it. It is almost inevitable. The more vocal you are about your faith, the more likely you are to find people who are opposed to it. How you choose to respond when people take jabs at you is profoundly important. Your response can set the tone for meaningful conversation and increase your influence.
Take the following steps to deal with persecution, when it happens.
Pray for those who persecute you:
Yes, I said it. This is the best thing to do in every situation. Pray as if your life depends on it, because in reality, most of the time, it does. Your relationship with the Lord will determine how you handle the rest of this situation. At times, you will want to lash out at the person slandering you. Resist that temptation. Instead, pray for that person(s). Yes, I know. Praying for the person persecuting you can be difficult but my friend, if for no other reason, it will soften your heart for that person, and you will be able to face them with grace instead of anger and pain.
Let God fight your battle
This is by far the hardest thing you will have to do. To be still and let God fight for you. You will be tempted to correct the gossip you hear about yourself. Don’t be tempted to defend yourself. God will send others to do that. By virtue of what I do, I find that there is a lot of incorrect information about me out there, some of which even makes me laugh out loud because it was so outlandish while others are blatant attacks. Because of this, I have come to fully understand the verse that says The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” I have come to the understanding, more than ever before that there was and there is nothing I can say to change people’s minds about me. So, I let it go and I let God.
3. Realize it’s a blessing.
What? How can you even contemplate that being persecuted is a blessing? You can! And as a leader, you must! When you are holding steadfast to God and His truth, letting Him guide you through difficult situations, you may very well find yourself in the slander spotlight. When this happens, trust these verses – Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me... Our faith grows when we watch God work it all out and see Him get all the glory for all He has done! What a blessing!
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviors in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
4.Believe the truth will come to light.
My friend, I know if you are going through all this, it is not easy and I am very sorry. Just lean into Jesus. I know my saying this does not seem like I am saying much. The truth is, He, above all, completely understands. In the end, whether on Earth or in heaven, the truth will all come to light.
I experienced a situation years back, and I chose not to defend myself but just let it go. I mean, I have quite a number of experiences in this area. Many years later, I received a call from the main perpetrator. This person expressed complete sorrow for having said what was said and asked for forgiveness. I was at a loss for words because time had passed and I had even forgotten about the ordeal. That said, the person was asking me to forgive them and that they needed to hear me say to them that they are forgiven. It was one of the most memorable experiences. I was very thankful to God for this, that even though it took years, the truth became evident because God was working it all out. Because of all this, relationships began to be mended where division had once resided.
He will fight for you! You can trust that!
My friend, the world is falling apart and the leaders required in this season need to have a firm foundation and they need to be able to face the headwinds that will come with their leadership. You cannot make it on your own. You need God. However, understand this, that the world hates Jesus. Oh, not the baby in the manger or the One who healed the sick or fed the multitudes. It hates the Jesus who said He came “to destroy the works of the devil.” Jesus came against corruption, adultery, idolatry, lies, drunkenness, abortion, homosexuality, murder, pornography, and so on. He came against pride, racism, and hatred. For that, the world hates Him. And it will hate you.
Jesus came to condemn and expose their sin, and they hated Him. The world still hates Him and the things He stands against. It’s no wonder He is the greatest leader that ever lived. He did not come to be loved by the world but lead and change the world for the better. The world hates you for the life they see you living and the Lord you serve. You will find yourself the butt of jokes.
My friend, remember, persecution will only increase. Don’t sit in the corner feeling sorry for yourself. You must remember who you are: a child of The King. Release love to those who persecute you and do good to them. Be like God and love them. These people are blind. They don’t see. They don’t understand. We need to treat our persecutors as God has treated us. Come to grips with it: as a leader, one who follows the greatest leader who ever lived, Jesus Christ, you are going to be persecuted.
My ask of you is to seek the Lord to teach you to be different. Don’t let the world intimidate you. Don’t live by political correctness. Stand tall and do not be afraid.
If you find that you are easily and completely swayed and fold because of the rejection of others, it is clear you do not know who you are. It is imperative that you find your identity and your value. Without knowing who you are, it is very difficult to withstand the persecution that will come.
If you need help with knowing who you are, reach out to us and it would be an honor and a privilege to walk this journey of self-discovery with you.