Surviving Social Persecution
“Blessed [comforted by inner peace and God’s love] are those who are persecuted for doing that which is morally right, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [both now and forever].” (Matthew 5:10 Amplified)
A few days ago I was on Twitter and happened to land on a post by one of my favorite Bible study teachers. She was speaking some righteous truth to power regarding the current political climate, and I readily jumped in her “amen” corner.
Now, this is a woman who has been a stalwart instructor of deep biblical truth for a long time. Her teaching is fundamentally sound and her integrity above reproach. Yet, I watched as one-by-one people came onto the thread to denigrate her. As some of us came to her defense we too became targets. Verbal barbs flew back and forth. It was ugly and sad.
I had to step back and reread what had started all of this. Did I miss something? This dear sister was appealing to the church to lay aside political ideology and be “the Church” again. She lamented about division, relationships and friendships that had been fractured, and a level of discourse that certainly wasn’t representative of those who represent the household of faith. This sister pleaded for softer hearts and a spirit of repentance. Good stuff. Biblical stuff. Yet, the more we agreed with her the more we were ridiculed.
Definition of persecution:
1: the act or practice of persecuting especially those who differ in origin, religion, or social outlook.
2: the condition of being persecuted, harassed, or annoyed. (Merriam-Webster)
What happened to us is something I’m calling Social Persecution.
When we hear the word “persecution” we usually think about those who have or are currently suffering because of their religion, race, or even gender. We usually think first about the persecuted church – those in repressive countries who are being tortured and killed for their faith, and rightfully so as they need our constant prayers that the Lord will protect and deliver them from harm.
“Bigotry and intolerance, silenced by argument, endeavors to silence by persecution, in old days by fire and sword, in modern days by the tongue. “ —Charles Simmons
However, persecution means harassment and being annoyed. It doesn’t have to always mean bodily harm. Since so many of us live a segment of our lives online, this type of persecution is very real.
Persecution has always had a social component attached.
It always involves isolation and derision. Just because the weapon is a 240-character tweet or a page long Facebook post doesn’t mean it doesn’t still hurt.
One of the things I dearly love about God’s Word is how timeless it is. No matter the time in human history, God’s Word brings comfort, instruction, conviction, and freedom. During the darkest times in history, the light and love of God’s word has illuminated the hearts of those seeking solace and peace.
In Matthew 5 Jesus gives His longest sermon. He was at the beginning of his earthly ministry, and I find it both interesting and comforting that right out the gate He wanted us to understand that there will be times when the conditions of our life may not be right, but there’s a place of blessing in the midst of it.
In verse 10, Jesus warns us that there will be times when we’ll be attacked for doing right, but on the other side of persecution, we’re promised a higher level of dominion and reign. I just love Jesus. I love how His words always lead us to think higher than where we are right now. Surely a Twitter fight can’t compare to the Kingdom of Heaven, right?
So here’s how we can all survive the next Twitter War or Facebook Food Fight that’s sure to come:
Breathe and laugh.
“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Corinthians 12:10 NIV)
So we’re supposed to delight in the next Twitter tirade? I know. Hard to do. But the Apostle Paul had a radical revelation on how to endure prosecution. He understood that though persecution weakened his flesh, it pushed him to rely even more heavily on the strength that came from his commitment to the cause of Christ. Paul laughed at his trials and grew stronger for it.
When I lack human strength; when the wars fought digitally cause me to become exhausted and exasperated, I know I can breathe and remember that the greater One, the Lord Jesus Christ, lives within me. He is strong and well able to sustain me.
Perhaps the next time I feel my blood pressure rising as I read my Twitter feed I’ll just force myself to laugh out loud. Now that will be something indeed!
Stop typing and speak blessings.
“Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.” (Romans 12:14 NLT)
Social media brushfires happen in the blink of an eye. It really doesn’t take much to start the next blaze that tears through threads and news feeds in record time. The tinder brush of divergent ideas and perpetual offense means that the next digital wildfire can erupt any moment, and before you know it, you’re caught in the middle of it.
The next time this happens JUST. STOP. TYPING.
You may have the perfect rebuttal, but hear the loving directive of the Word. We are called to speak words of blessings in the midst of persecution. Yes, yet another thing that’s not easy to do. I liken it to slamming on the brakes of a car while going 90 mph.
But as we lay aside our pride and need to be heard, the Lord uses us as a spiritual fire hose. Many a media fire could be put out if more of said “Bless you brother (or sister)” instead of launching a 240-character Molotov cocktail that probably won’t accomplish much anyway except make the fire hotter.
I’m afraid that many more social media wars are in the offing. We live in a time where earthly kingdoms are colliding with our Heavenly Kingdom. It’s going to be rough for a while. Know that as you stand as a witness to the truth, justice, and righteousness, you’ll draw fire. But the Lord has already promised you bountiful blessings.
A jubilant King and His Kingdom awaits.
Lisa Saunders is a Prophetic Minister, Teacher, and Worshiper from Portland, Oregon. Her heart is to create opportunities for all people, especially God’s precious daughters, to encounter the power of God. Lisa is the author of the prophetic devotional “The JoyFull Journey – a devotional for time away with the Shepherd” and is the President of Selah Retreats & Travel, a Christian travel company offering vacations and retreats for God-Centered travelers.