No Strange Persecution

George Bernard Shaw’s most popular play is, without question, Pygmalion, which can be traced back as far as 1871. Shaw’s play hit the public stage in 1913. It has since been revised and updated multiple times, been performed on stages around the world, and has most recently been reworked as both musical and film.

The story revolves around the proposed transformation of poverty-stricken Eliza Doolittle, a young woman who eeks out her living by selling flowers on the street. The tension of the play/film rises when phonetics professor, Henry Higgins, strikes a wager with a Colonel Pickering, asserting that he can pass Eliza off as a duchess by teaching her proper speech. From there, the play unfolds with humor as Eliza struggles to fit into a world completely foreign to her.

It is terribly unnerving to try to fit in where one simply does not fit. Whether it is a church family, school groupings, social clubs, even online gatherings – if you don’t fit, and try to do so, the end is going to be one of intense discomfort.

Strangers and Aliens

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia… 
1 Peter 1:1a, NASB

Peter called them “strangers” παρεπιδημος (parepideimos), or aliens. They were pilgrims or sojourners.

As Christ-followers, we are here, now, in this world, on this planet, but this is not where we belong. We do not fit in, and it is a mistake for us to try to do so.

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. – 1 Peter 2:11, NASB

Again, the use of the descriptors “aliens” and “strangers.” Because we do not belong to this world system, there is much the system offers that is harmful to us, so much so that Peter characterizes involvement with that system as war waged on our very souls.

The apostle Paul tells us that our citizenship is in heaven, not here on earth (Philippians 3:20). We were not designed for permanent residency on earth.

Just as it was with Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob, so it is with us.

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. – Hebrews 11:13-16, ESV

Even the Lord Jesus, in his wonderful John 17 prayer, said that we are not “of this world” any more than he is of this world.

Sufferers and Separatists

As we are not of this world, we neither value, nor are driven by what drives and draws those who are of this world. We have an ethics and values system that the world has no capacity to understand. They think us odd, and they heap abuse on us for what we value and how we choose to live.

They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation and they heap abuse on you. 1 Peter 4:4, NIV-1978

Jesus said, “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22, NIV-1978). But he also said that in such suffering and persecution, we will be blessed (Matthew 5:11). The apostles understood that suffering for Christ was to be expected, and they chose not to see it as a bad thing.

They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. – Acts 5:40a-41, NIV-1978

Peter will refer to the suffering of Christ-followers a minimum of fifteen times in 1 Peter, and he will use eight different Greek terms in doing so. As Peter describes the suffering and persecution, he exhorts his readers to understand that such suffering is neither bad, nor unusual. Indeed, it is one way to separate the disciples from the pretenders.

Consider this from Peter:

These [persecutions] have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. – 1 Peter 1:7, NIV-1978

When you suffer for the name of Christ, and you endure that suffering with patience, glorifying God through it all, that proves your faith genuine! The pretenders, when suffering comes – they run. They cave in. They deny. They dive headlong into the dissipation mentioned above.

I do not suggest that we should seek out persecution and trial. To be sure, it will find us easily enough. But neither do I want us to run from it, or to think it a strange thing with it occurs.

But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. – 1 Peter 4:13-14, NIV-1978

Keep the faith, my friends.

Blessings upon you.

Victoriously in Christ!

– damon
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Damon J. Gray

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