Archive for the ‘Suffering and Persecution’ Category

“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.  Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil.  Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.  Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.  For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.  In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.  Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion.  Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” (Ephesians 6:10-18)

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people.  Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.  Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!  In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.  For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.  If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that?  Even corrupt tax collectors do that much.  If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different form anyone else?  Even pagans do that.  But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)

A very popular “Christian” website publishes pictures and stories of the current Islamic “Crusades” happening in the Middle East and Africa.  The author is supposedly a convert to Christianity from Islam, having weighed the ways of Islam against his own moral compass and deciding that Christianity is superior.

As such, he calls his readers to take up arms to wage “Militant Christianity” and cites history’s many examples of Christians taking up physical arms, swords, and such to physically fight against zealous and extremist Muslims and purge them from the earth, since they are wicked and spiritually inferior to Christianity.

He writes about the “Us Versus Them” stance that Christians must take and he says the root of the spread of Islam throughout the world is the Church’s lukewarmness.  Essentially, he says, if the Church was strong, Islam would be a non-issue. But where Islam is strong, it is evidence that the Church is weak.  He says, if the Church is strong, then Islam will be weak.  But what kind of “strength” is he referring to?  He equates spiritual lukewarmness to physical battle-ready weakness and spiritual zealousness with a Christian’s willingness to physically battle flesh and blood wickedness.

A quick read of his standpoint and theory makes sense to the emotionally charged mind.  It’s a very human stance; one that every religion and nation has taken at some point.  He says his call for Christians to take up their “sword” is backed even by New Testament Scripture and he says that Jesus calls on Christians to do this. Whatever he found in Christianity that he considers “Superior” to Islam, he has yet held fast to the extreme Islam principle of killing the “enemy”.  Sadly, a skimming of the hundreds of comments on his website from fellow “Christians” shows that even those who wish to be zealous for God are lost and worldly in their reasoning, as they unfortunately agree with him.

But this is the age-old trick that makes Satan so powerful.  Present 90% truth, mixed with 10% falsehood, and those without the power of discernment in their spirit will believe that all of it is 100% truth.  The best liars that have ever existed have followed the evil one’s lead on this and it is most common in religion and politics, where the average person is fed just enough truth to believe everything that is being said.  CHRISTIANS, BEWARE OF THIS AND PRAY TO GOD ALMIGHTY THAT HE WILL GIVE YOU A DISCERNING SPIRIT THAT CORRECTLY DIVIDES TRUTH FROM LIE.

The old saying, ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” has never been so real as it is in matters of spiritual warfare.

What did Jesus Christ tell us to do about our enemies?  He told us to love them.  Indeed, He commands us to LOVE our enemies and to pray for them.  The “sword” our Lord speaks of is the Sword of the Spirit of God (The Word Of God), which we wield in prayer and obedience.  We protect ourselves by putting on the Armor of God, spiritual armor.

It is true that the mainstream Church, especially in the West, is lukewarm and dull; being subjugated more and more each day to liberal agendas and philosophies that are popular in culture but completely contradictory to Scripture.  The Word of God has instructed us that this is a sign that the end is near.  

The answer is not to take up arms and take part in the new Crusades of violence and hatred that is spreading across the globe, but to live righteously and to pray.

The battle is the Lord’s. We are called to pray. The Lord will purge evil and wickedness according to His perfect will on Earth, as it is not His will for evil to be in the Earth.  But, we are called to pray for it!  Prayer is the vessel that carries the will of God.  The lukewarm, dull Church is failing in this regard because they are not praying for God’s Will or His intervention in the Earth as they should.

The Lord raises up kings and authorities and armies as we see time and again throughout Scripture.  He uses people according to His good pleasure to accomplish His Holy Will. But Christians, who have been handed the keys to the Kingdom in Christ Jesus, must exercise our authority by praying and living righteous lives; demonstrating that we are citizens not of this world, but of the Kingdom of God.

Our lives should be living testimonies of the glory of God and his Supreme Authority over all creation.  Our lives should be conducted in a way that cannot be criticized: “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you.  Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.” (Philippians 2:14-15)

“Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.” (Philippians 1:27a)

We harvest what we plant.

The Christian does not plant hatred and violence, but love and righteousness. This is what separates us from the world and makes us stand out as citizens of the Kingdom of God.  Things that concern us, make us worry, make us feel helpless and scared, make us feel unprotected and fragile, or make us feel that we’re at the mercy of evil and wickedness, are the very things we must take to the throne of God Almighty in the Name of Jesus Christ who conquered death and has promised us eternal life.

We must live zealously, yes!  Zealous living for God is one of worship, right living, obedience and prayer.  This kind of zealousness is a sacrifice that greatly pleases the Lord and demonstrates that we belong to Him and are under His supervision and provision for our lives.  When we live this way, we show that we have a King we belong to and we trust Him in every way and in every situation.  If our dying breath is at the hands of a Muslim or any other persecutor, then so be it, as this world is not our permanent residence anyway.  We are guaranteed that we will leave this place behind, whether comfortably or violently.

The goal, therefore, is not to kill whoever does not believe in our God.  The goal is to present them with the Good News of Salvation through Jesus Christ so that they may believe and be saved from the second death, that is the spiritual death.  Many of us may find that this is our last action on earth; and what a glorious action that would be.

If we are ever tempted in any way to react to troubles the way the rest of the world does, the devil is nearby, guaranteed. Stay alert and pray!

“This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2 Chronicles 20:15b)

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But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies!  Do good to those who hate you.  Bless those who curse you.  Pray for those who hurt you.  If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer the other cheek also.  If someone demands your coat, of your shirt also.  Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back.  Do to others as you would like them to do to you.  If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that?  Even sinners love those who love them!  And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit?  Even sinners do that much!  And if you lend money only to those who can replay you, why should you get credit?  Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.  Love your enemies!  Do good to them.  Lend to them without expecting to be repaid.  Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.  You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.” (Luke 6:27-36)

“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?  Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?  (As the Scriptures say, ‘For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.’) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.” (Romans 8:35-37)

“When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of all who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful in their testimony.  They shouted to the Lord and said, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us?”  Then a white robe was given to each of them.  And they were told to rest a little longer until the full number of their brothers and sisters–their fellow servants of Jesus who were martyred–had joined them.”  (Revelation 6:9-11)

Are Christians to take up arms to pursue battle with our enemies?  In a world brimming with violence and hatred, this question has been much debated among Christians.

How can victory be ours if we are being slaughtered?  How can victory be ours if we are being raped, persecuted, tortured, humiliated and oppressed?  Aren’t these things evidence of being conquered, not victorious?

It certainly appeared to the Jewish leaders and, really, all of Satan’s kingdom, as Jesus was dying upon the cross, that they had won; that they had killed their enemy and won the war.  

Had they known that their violent schemes and actions were only fulfilling the purpose of God and His plan to save humanity from the wages of sin (death), they would have never crucified Jesus.  “Yet, when I am among mature believers, I do speak with words of wisdom, but not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world, or to the rulers of this world, who are soon forgotten.  No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God–his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began, which none of the rulers of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him’. (1 Corinthians 2:6-9)

In retrospect, we see that God’s hidden plan was hinted at by what happened to Joseph in the oldest book of the Bible, Genesis.  Joseph’s own brothers, out of jealousy and hatred, sold Joseph into slavery, hoping he would be worked to death as a slave.  But their wicked plan only led to countless lives being saved, including their own, because God was with Joseph.  “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.  He brought me to this position so I would save the lives of many people.  No, don’t be afraid.  I will continue to take care of you and your children.’ So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them.” (Genesis 50:20-21)  Note that Joseph, upon having power over his persecutors, did not return evil for evil.  No, this whole story is but a shadow glimpse into what Christ would later do for all humanity.

When a crowd arrived in the Garden of Gethsemane to arrest Jesus, Peter attacked a servant of the Jewish high priest and cut the man’s ear off.  Jesus stepped forward immediately and healed the wound.  He did this knowing that the servant was there to arrest him and lead him to his death (Matthew 26:47-55).   There was a two-fold purpose in this: first, that the actions of the men who were arresting Jesus would soon lead to Jesus fulfilling his destiny on the cross, thereby conquering Satan’s kingdom, and second, that the story of Jesus would not be tarnished by any actions of violence.

Nowhere in the Gospels or the entire New Testament do we have even one single instance of a Christian acting violently in any way.  When Peter tried, he was rebuked by his Master, who instantly righted the wrong.

Violence is of this world.  Violence is not of the kingdom of God.

Christians are in this world, but we are not of this world; we are of our Father in Heaven.  We are simply visitors passing through, sharing with as many as we can the story of the Son of God and His saving grace.  We are merely traveling through on an eternal train, picking up as many passengers as we can from this wasteland to take them home.

We don’t know where our last stop on Earth will be, only our Father knows.  Our last stop may be as an old person, simply fading away in the comfort of our bed.  Our last stop may be suddenly, unexpected, untimely; it may be after much suffering in our bodies.  Our last stop may be tragically, on a highway or by a freak accident.  Our last stop may be at the brutal whims of those who are acting out the violent ways of their religion or lack of religion and we may therefore take our place with the countless others who have been given white robes washed in the blood of the Lamb, martyrs.

No matter the nature of our death, we are guaranteed we will all die.  And if it’s at the hands of another because of our testimony of Jesus Christ, then our life and death has assisted the grand purpose of God and our death brings glory to God. Indeed, so many of the very ones who have oppressed, persecuted and murdered Christians have themselves been saved in the aftermath of their horrendous deeds.  The grace of God is at work in everything.  We need only to surrender our lives to Him.

Those who love their life in this world will lose it.  Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity.” (John 12:25)  We are not called to seek to preserve our lives on this Earth.  Yes, we are to treat our bodies as the Holy Temple of God and care for them, but we are not to love ourselves so much as to place our lives ahead of or above God’s purpose.  We do not seek risk to ourselves, but if it comes to us, we are to face it boldly and righteously as Jesus would.  In all things, we are to follow Jesus.

And Jesus died for His enemies.  He loved them.

How does the Christian, then, battle wickedness and evil?  We battle by living righteous lives and by prayer.  Jesus led by example and we simply follow Him and pray that God’s Kingdom come soon!

Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves.  So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.  But beware!  For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me.  When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say.  God will give you the right words at the right time.  For it is not you who will be speaking — it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.  A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed.  And all nations will hate you because you are my followers.  But everyone who endures to the end will be saved.  When you are persecuted in one town, flee to the next.  I tell you the truth, the Son of Man will return before you have reached all the towns of Israel.  Students are not greater than their teacher, and slaves are not greater than their master.  Students are to be like their teacher, and slaves are to be like their master.  And since I, the master of the household, have been called the prince of demons, the members of my household will be called by even worse names!  But don’t be afraid of those who threaten you.  For the time is coming when everything that is covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all.  What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes.  What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear!  Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul.  Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.  What is the price of two sparrows — one copper coin?  But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.  And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.  Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven.  But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.  Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth!  I came not to bring peace, but a sword.  ‘I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  Your enemies will be right in your own household!’  If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.  If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine.  If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.  Anyone who receives you receives me, and anyone who receives me receives the Father who sent me.  If you receive a prophet as one who speaks for God, you will be given the same reward as a prophet.  And if you receive righteous people because of their righteousness, you will be given a reward like theirs.  And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.”  (Matthew 10:16-42)

Life on earth and everything here is temporary.  We bring nothing into the world with us when we are born and we take nothing with us when we depart.  Clinging to anything here when faced with eternal decisions is futile.

Christians who understand this truly know what it means to give their lives to the Lord as well as the lives of all they love.  That is the ultimate display of trust and God asks for nothing less.

All over the world, Christians hear the words “We will slaughter you.  We will slaughter your family” and they live their lives knowing these threats can turn into a real experience at any moment.

This persecution currently comes mainly from Muslims (not radical, as the standard response in Muslim countries to Christian proselytizing and conversion is to kill the so-called ‘offenders’), but Christians world-wide also suffer at the hands of followers of other hostile religions and Communists.  Families are torn apart over conversions to Christianity, with family members committing “honor killings” and other atrocities against their own flesh and blood.

Jesus warned us far ahead of time that it would be so and, as with everything He said, it’s true.

Pray for Muslims, that they would be given eyes to see and ears to hear the truth of Jesus Christ while there is still time.  Pray for persecuted Christians, that in the midst of their great suffering, they would cling not to the world, but to Jesus Christ alone, submitting to His perfect will for their ETERNAL lives.  Pray for boldness and truth in Christ to shine out in the darkness, through the lives of Christians world-wide, especially those who are being persecuted, so that the glory of Christ cannot be denied.  Father, may Your Kingdom come! 

 

“When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of all who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful in their testimony.  They shouted to the Lord and said, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us?’ Then a white robe was given to each of them.  And they were told to rest a little longer until the full number of their brothers and sisters–their fellow servants of Jesus who were to be martyred–had joined them.” (Revelation 6:9-11)

“As Scriptures say, ‘For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.’ (Romans 8:36)

If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.  The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world.  I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.” (John 15:18-19)

On 9/10/14, the eve of the 13th anniversary of what is known as “9/11”, the day that Islamic terrorists massacred almost 3,000 people in one morning on American soil, the American President broadcast a message to the American people concerning the newest face of Islamic terror, the Islamic State or ISIS/ISIL, and announced that “ISIL is not Islamic.”

Former Muslim, Brother “Rachid” (he must use a partial name since members of the “religion of peace” will hunt him down and kill him if they can) responded with the truth about Islam and ISIS/ISIL in the below video.

Christians, stay alert, praying at all times.  Pray for our leaders, for the persecuted, for the persecutors and for the lost, that they may be saved while there is still time.  “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)  The battle is already decided and it will come to pass exactly as God told us it would, but we each have our duty while we’re alive on earth to pray, to live a Godly life, and to take the Good News of the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ, to the ends of the earth.

Muslims everywhere are seeing the truth about the dead, false religion of Islam.  They are experiencing the love of God through Jesus Christ and becoming Christians, even if it costs them their earthly lives at the hands of other Muslims.  The Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.  May God’s Kingdom come!

Do not murder.” (Exodus 20:13)

Jesus told them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, because I have come to you from God.  I am not here on my own, but he sent me.  Why can’t you understand what I am saying?  It’s because you can’t even hear me!  For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does.  He was a murderer from the beginning.  He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.  Which of you can truthfully accuse me of sin?  And since I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me?  Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God.  But you don’t listen because you don’t belong to God.”  (John 8:42-47)

“Don’t do as the wicked do, and don’t follow the path of evildoers.  Don’t even think about it; don’t go that way.  Turn away and keep moving.  For evil people can’t sleep until they’ve done their evil deed for the day.  They can’t rest until they’ve caused someone to stumble.  They eat the food of wickedness and drink the wine of violence!” (Proverbs 4:14-17)

But for your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” (Psalm 44:22)

“All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.  We have left God’s paths to follow our own.  Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.  He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word.  He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.  And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 52:6-7)

“Now Jesus was standing before Pilate, the Roman governor.  ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ the governor asked him.  Jesus replied, ‘You have said it.’  But when the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent.  ‘Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?’ Pilate demanded.  But Jesus made no response to any of the charges, much to the governor’s surprise.” (Matthew 27:11-12)

“Jesus replied, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’  They will deceive many.  And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic.  Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately.  Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be earthquakes in many parts of the world, as well as famines.  But this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.  When these things begin to happen, watch out!  You will be handed over to the local councils and beaten in the synagogues.  You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers.  But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me.  For the Good News must first be preached to all nations.  But when you are arrested and stand trial, don’t worry in advance about what to say.  Just say what God tells you at that time, for it is not you who will be speaking, but the Holy Spirit.”  (Mark 13:5-11)

Christians around the world are facing a sharp increase in persecution, especially in the Middle East.  Radical Islamists are currently leading the charge in terrorizing anyone who does not submit to their worldview of Islamic Sharia Law and they are proclaiming that Christians and Jews are their main enemies.

No one escapes their terror as they savagely and openly subjugate, rape, mutilate, and behead thousands of people.  They are so bloodthirsty that even Muslims do not escape their path of terror.  They dress as reapers of death, clothed in all black and faces covered, so that the only thing one sees when they see these men roll into an area in their convoy of trucks is sheer evil.  They do not bring joy or peace.  Only terror.  They do not build, but destroy.  They do not give, only take away.  They cannot even rest at the end of their day until they’ve destroyed something or someone.  They are spiritually fat off their food of wickedness and drunk off of violence; they love it and crave it.

Christians are fleeing their homes and communities with literally only the shirts on their backs.  Some are facing a choice of converting to Islam, paying a tax of submission to Islam or death, but most are simply facing death.

While the persecution and martyrdom of Christians has been happening for almost 2,000 years, Jesus told us that it would only get worse as time goes on and He set the example for us should we find ourselves experiencing persecution and/or facing death for our faith.

Jesus only ever spoke what the Father in Heaven told Him to say. (John 8:28) Scripture teaches us that Jesus was silent before His persecutors. The importance of His silence before His persecutors cannot be lost on us.  Jesus was under no obligation to say a word and neither are we.

News stories have been making their way from the Middle East over the past few months that Christians are being forced to make statements that they worship Allah and that Islam reigns supreme.  Once they finish reciting these words back to their persecutors, they are proclaimed to be ‘infidels’ anyway and publicly beheaded.  Why say anything at all?  Jesus didn’t.  We don’t have to.

Jesus also said not to worry about what we will say when the time comes.  The Holy Spirit will either prompt us to be silent or He will give us the words at the appropriate time.

Let us pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are being persecuted today, that they are made able to remain faithful to the Lord and that the words they speak (if any) glorify Jesus Christ, our Lord Almighty.  And may God rise up and defend and protect the helpless.  He is the only One who is able.  He is our only hope and our hope is indeed in Him!

“When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of all who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful in their testimony.  They shouted to the Lord and said, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us?’  Then a white robe was given to each of them.  And they were told to rest a little longer until the full number of their brothers and sisters — their fellow servants of Jesus who were to be martyred — had joined them.”  (Revelation 6:9-11)

“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world.  I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.” (John 15: 18-19)

Last October, I spent 4 days in Rome, Italy.  When I was planning the trip, I visited Rome via Google Earth almost every single day. I’d been obsessed with Roman history for so long, I couldn’t wait to stand in the middle of the ancient Forum with the sun on my face and the breeze gliding past me.  I wanted to experience everything; the scent of the earth around the ruins, the sight of the ancient structures, the feel of the stones of the Colosseum against my fingertips, the sounds of a city that have continued for thousands of years.  It was magical even just to imagine it.

And I knew that the Apostle Paul spent at least two years living in Rome under house arrest (Acts 28:30).  I knew that once I got there, my feet would walk the same giant cobblestones that his feet walked; I would look up at the same sky and upon the same city he did, albeit in ruins, and hoped I’d find that the soul of the place remained unchanged through time.  I wasn’t disappointed.

Paul’s final days were spent in prison in Rome for preaching the Good News of Jesus and he wrote II Timothy while imprisoned there.  In the letter, he asked Timothy to visit him quickly, before winter, and to bring him his cloak and scrolls.  Like his Christ before him, Paul had been deserted by everyone he’d called ‘friend’.  He wrote, “Only Luke is with me.” (2 Timothy 4:11)

While Scripture doesn’t glorify the place of Paul’s suffering by naming it, there was only one state prison in ancient Rome and it was called “Carcer”; in medieval times, called “Mamertine”, located on the east side of Capitoline Hill, in the dungeons under the city’s main sewer.  The Catholic church has preserved many notable places in Rome and Mamertine Prison is one of them. I had to see it.

On the outskirts of the ancient Roman ruins is a medieval staircase where you can stand to overlook the Roman Forum of Caesar.  Halfway up the stairs, if you turn to your left, you can buy gelato and souvenirs from a kiosk vendor.  If you turn to your right, there is an unassuming door in the wall.  If you walk through the door, you’re in a small church.  And if you ask the person inside where Mamertine Prison is, they’ll point down through the floor and ask you if you’d like to go down there.

I descended a stone spiral staircase into a dungeon, which was illuminated for my benefit and experience.  Standing there, I stared at the floor, stared at the cold stone blocks that made up the walls and ceiling, breathed in the air of the place, closed my eyes and saw Paul in my imagination.  My chest tightened and all I could do was quietly cry.

Scripture tells us, “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”  (Hebrews 13:3)  To this day, our brothers and sisters around the world are being kept against their will, mistreated, humiliated and murdered because of one thing: they will not stay silent about Jesus Christ.

Mammertine_prison

Photo from http://roma-travel-guide.blogspot.com/2011/11/coliseum-memertine-prison.html

“Bless those who persecute you.  Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.” Romans 12:14

Never pay back evil with more evil.  Do things in such a way that everyone can see that you are honorable.  Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.  Dear friends, never take revenge.  Leave that to the righteous anger of God.  For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the Lord.  Instead, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them.  If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.’ Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” Romans 12: 17-21

“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies!  Do good to those who hate you.  Bless those who curse you.  Pray for those who hurt you.  If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also.  If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back.  Do to others as you would like them to do to you.  If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that?  Even sinners love those who love them!  And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much!  And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.  Love your enemies!  Do good to them.  Lend to them without expecting to be repaid.  Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.  You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.”  Luke 6: 27-36

Many of us have been sinned against in ways that we may never recover from. Our honor, or our body, or our loved ones may have been violated or degraded beyond the point of our ability to turn the other cheek. But we’ve been commanded as servants of the Most High not to return evil for evil.

We are to turn it over to God and trust him when he says “I will take revenge; I will pay them back.”

The natural human response is not to love someone who’s hurt us, but to hurt them back. As can be expected, God requires our reaction to be the opposite of what comes naturally.  In fact, without Him in the center of our lives, this command is probably beyond human willpower.  Even with our focus on Him, he didn’t say it would be easy.  But with Him, we can do as He commands.   “I am the Lord, the God of all the peoples of the world.  Is anything too hard for me?”  Jeremiah 32-27