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For Reading and Meditation:     1 Peter 4:7-19

We continue focusing on the fact that many Christians are persecuted, not because of identifying with Christ, but because of their tactlessness and folly. This eighth Beatitude - "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" - does not apply to such people. Let us be quite clear about that. There is a great difference between persecution for the sake of righteousness and persecution for the sake of self-righteousness. Many Christians are foolish in these matters. They fail to realise the difference between prejudice and principle, and thus bring unnecessary suffering upon themselves. The same applies to those who are over-zealous in their witnessing. They make a nuisance of themselves and interpret the persecution that comes as persecution for righteousness' sake. The scripture teaches us to be "wise as serpents and innocent as doves". The writer of the Proverbs puts it powerfully when he says: "He who wins souls is wise" (Proverbs 11:30). We are not told in this eighth Beatitude, "Blessed are those who are persecuted because they are over-zealous', neither are we told, "Blessed are those who are persecuted because they are fanatical." I was once asked by a church to counsel one of their members who had a compulsion to witness. The man got into so many difficulties because of this that the church threatened to discipline him unless he agreed to receive counselling. I found his compulsion to witness came not from Christ, but from his own inner drives. He needed to witness so as to feel significant. Witnessing should be a constraint, never a compulsion.

O Father, show me how to distinguish between what is a compulsion and what is a constraint. And help me to see that if I don't find my significance in my relationship with You, then I will attempt to find it in other ways. Amen.

Questions to Consider
  • Who was Saul really persecuting?
  • What was his early experience of proclaiming Christ?

Bible Verses: 1 Peter 4:7-19Proverbs 11:30Acts 9:1-291 Corinthians 4:122 Corinthians 4:9

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