There is a tendancy for the fundamentalist and liberal both to put a lot of emphasis on the last two beatitudes, maybe more than they should. I have found myself in this category a couple of times as well.
'Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake, rejoice and be exceeding glad for great is your reward in heaven, for so persecuted they the prophets then went before.'
It is common for people to take these verses to justify themselves anytime someone disagrees with them. Lets take a doctrine like the foreknowledge of God, I avidly disagree with the stance of our staff, and the entire denomination as it pertains to election and God's foreknowledge. Yet when a pastor tells me in an e-mail dialog that I am wrong, is that persecution? Absolutely not, if anything it is rebuke or reproof, though not a wise reproof in my estimation, but nonetheless it is by no means persecution. The same can be said going the other way, if I tell someone that they are wrong when it comes to a doctrine like the total depravity of man, I am in no way persecuting them, I am simply offering reproof. Liberals in churches have become so sensative to disagreement that they always view it as division, disention, and persecution. They will water anything down to the point where everyone is happy. On the other hand many fundi's are out looking to get 'persecuted'. They will stir the kettle just to watch it boil without any desire to actually cook the meal. When it does boil over and they get burnt they say blessed are we because we have been persecuted.
Here is how it goes, the so called persecuted one takes a stand, someone disagrees, the disagreement is viewed as persecution. The so call called persecuted one then views this as a blessing because of the last two beatitudes. The 'persecuted' person can never be wrong, if someone disagrees with them they view it as a persecution blesssing, and if someone agrees they rejoice at the shared knowledge. I am not calling this a conservative or a liberal Christian issue, it is more of a fallen man issue that plagues all of Christendom. It is sad that we have turned real blessed persecution into a lame justification for the various stances we take.
What is the real blessed persecution? I think the key lies in the rest of the beatitudes. When the poor in spirit, mourning, meek, thirsting for righteousness, mericful, pure in heart, peacemaker is persecuted he may count it all joy and know that he or she is truely blessed. If we are abiding in Christ, and we are living the sweet blessed life charatarized by the beatitudes then there is no rational reason that we would ever be persecuted. Yet in living that life we certainly will be persecuted for righteousness sake, then and only then should we rejoice and be exceeding glad for great is the reward in heaven. Our battle is spiritual, and when we are pure in heart, humble, and gentle the spiritual forces of darkness will always lash out. On the other hand if we are presenting gospel truth in a spirit of bitterness, and seeking to simply watch the pot boil then our so called persecution is not blessed at all but well deserved, and we should be ashamed. Conversely if we are diluting gospel truth for the sake of unity and people rise against us that is not blessed persecution, but well deserved rebuke. If we would live out the first 7 beatitudes then we would truely understand last beatitudes' teaching concerning persecution.
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A popular argument against Christianity is the existance of suffering. The notion is this, if God is all powerful, and God is love, then the existence of suffering disproves God. The argument is flawed severely in its logic, and yet as Christians we seem to really struggle with a defense to this claim against God.
I have heard Christians say that suffering exists because stuff exists. That one is a little beyond me, I guess what is meant by that is something like this: If a tree falls on a person and they break their leg and suffer, it is because the tree exists. Another example sounds kinda like this: The reason the tsunamis caused suffering was because the ocean exists, and earthquakes happen. I guess the theory would be, God created stuff, and stuff created suffering.
I think I understand why people hold to this theory, and I don't think it is the scripture. I think it is a need to maintain a God that is their definition of love. God is love, there can be no mistake made there. Yet if we apply the human standard of love the to The Almighty God then we are attempting to limit the infinite. I held to this position for years also, somehow believing that God is in the business of relieving suffering, and would never consider ordaining suffering, yet looking back I realize that there are some major flaws in that line of thinking.
Lets take a look--
How can we reconcile an all powerful and all loving God and a suffering world. The only reconciliation is that God has ordained suffering out of His infinite love, or else he is either not all powerful, or not all loving. You may say 'Jay you are calling God the author of suffering' I would respond with 'yes, that is what I am saying.' Then you may say well that is not the God I worship, or that is not a God of love, or I would never worship that God.
Let me ask this question:
What was the greastest act of love of all time.
Answer, when God sent His son to suffer for His people. Do you realize that if there were no suffering, God would have been incapable of showing perfect love. However God, being love had to institute suffering so as to be able to make His love manifest. Even before time began God knew full well that suffering would exist, it was His plan. The culmination of suffering which we all experience was the ultimate sacrafice which Christ made. We are called to pick up our cross and suffer with Christ, it is by suffering that we partake in the love of Christ, and can relate to the love He bestowed. With no suffering there would be no sacrafice, there would be no grace. Praise God for suffering! The apostles understood this, Christ understood this, the early church understood this, the Church at the reformation understood this, yet sadly more often than not, we do not understand it. Praise God for the thorns, for they created the crown that proved His love, praise God for the twisted mind that dreamed up the torture that is crucifixion. Praise God when suffering, and thank God for suffering. Why is there suffering? Because God loves His people enough to show them that He was willing to submit to suffering on their behalf. If there was no suffering, and then God came down and suffered it would have made no sense, and nobody would relate to what God was doing. Yet because we understand what it is like to suffer, it is absolutley staggering to think that God would submit to suffering by His own will, on our behalf.
So what about the tsunami's, or my tree example. Was not the tsunami a means of grace for many in that area? Did that not create an instant dispensation of love from God in the form of brethren from all over the world pouring in to a suffering people. If our leg is crushed by a tree can we not see even more that a God that would submit Himself to this world of pain is certainly a God of love. Suffering is a dispensation of love from God, and should not be viewed as simple circumstance. Our God is the author of love, and suffering is one of His main literary tools.
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