Reacting to Opposition
Categories: Instructional, Leadership
Christians these days seem to have challenges continually rising up against them on just about every ideal they stand upon. Whether it is such issues as abortion, transgenderism, and the definition of marriage, or doctrinal pillars such as the exclusivity of Christianity or the authority of the Bible, Christians have a myriad of opponents. Christians are ridiculed, attacked, and even killed from time to time simply over their faith in Jesus, without concern for anything else.
Then again, it has always been this way. In the book of Acts, we see the recorded history of the Church during its first three decades. What do we see? The spread of the gospel? Yes. The growth of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire to a variety of people? Certainly. But not without serious opposition. In fact, the killing of Christians simply for their faith began within the first five years after Pentecost (see Acts 6:8-7:60). It only got worse from there, with mass persecutions arising against Christians from time to time, and that trend has continued through our present day.
How do we react to such persecution and ridicule? Often, our immediate reaction is to ridicule and hurt those who attacked us. We do this often by petition, lawsuits, boycotts, angry letters, and even violent action by some. However, we have neither precedent nor permission to engage in such acts. In fact, just the opposite is true (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27; Romans 12:14, 19-21). We are commanded to pray and bless, but we often desire an example to emulate. Is there an example we can seek to go by anywhere in the New Testament?
One such example is the prayer of the believers in Acts 4:24-30. Peter and John had just been arrested and sternly warned against speaking in the name of Jesus. When they were released, they told the believers what had happened—how God had moved miraculously, and how the religious leaders had reacted by arresting the apostles and putting them under threat of punishment should they speak in the name of Jesus again—their reaction was to cry out to God.
In this prayer, they did three things:
- They acknowledged the sovereignty of God (vs. 24) – because everything was created by God, all things at all times are in His hands. Therefore, He is in control.
- They put their enemies into perspective (vvs. 25-27) – since God is in control of everything, then, He is also in control of our enemies. He has predestined their fate, as well as ours.
- They requested God to act for and through His people (vs. 29-30) – after putting their situation into perspective and bringing it before God, they made their requests known to God (Philippians 4:6). Specifically, they didn’t ask for evil to be wrought upon their enemies; instead, they prayed for themselves—for boldness to proclaim the gospel, and power to perform miracles in the name of Jesus.
What happened as a result of their prayer? The room was immediately shaken, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they went out proclaiming the gospel with boldness. As citizens of the kingdom of God (1 Peter 2:9), may we replace violence, revenge, and hatred with the peace, grace, and love of the gospel. Jesus charged His followers with proclaiming the gospel, and nothing else.