Persecution is a huge subject as the church has always been open to attack.
And yet, somehow, God manages to turn these situations around for us.
Some of the frontiers we have been attacked on, include:
1) Wide spread slander
- On the internet, slating character and doctrine
- Negative press reports
As a general rule slander should be ignored. We should adopt the posture of Jesus as he was silent before his critics. Most slander needs to be killed with neglect. To write back to newspapers or answer on social media draws you into enemy territory.
2) Legal action
- Court action from individuals
We are encouraged to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves . For this reason, legal counsel should be sought and due process followed. While the lawyers are working out the detail, we ought to be blessing and praying for our persecutors, giving room for God to act (Rom13:1-7). Our actions should not be characterised by revenge, however, God’s justice does not imply that Christians just roll over and submit to all legal high-handedness.
Church leaders ought to be brought into the fray in a circumspect way.
Brian Houston says that legal bullies want to attack the highest authority in a church and this ‘card’ should be kept back for the final negotiations.
3) Government imposition
- Government opposition
- Community events impinging on facilities
Government needs to be submitted to on the issues of law. That does not mean that every government decision needs to be accepted. Contesting in an honourable way is wise and Godly. It is in these instances we can lean on God for creative solutions, trusting that God will show us alternatives.
4) Isolated slander
- Other churches speaking badly of us
- Threatened media exposure by unbelievers on issues of conscience
- Death threats from angry people
- General gossip
- Most often, these issues need to be dealt with by ignoring them.
- When other churches speaking badly of us, we should bless them.
- When we are threatened with media exposure by unbelievers on issues of conscience, we can talk face to face to them, but need to trust God to protect our reputation.
- When we get death threats from angry people we ought to assess the seriousness of the threat, take wise precaution and trust the Lord.
- When we are a victim of general gossip, we should be silent.
5) crime related
Dealing with all these attacks requires:
- Trust in God
- An examination of self and owning up to the Lord of any wrong doing
- A retreat into scripture for God’s wisdom on how to deal with it
- General principles in scripture include
- A soft answer turns away wrath (Prov 15:1)
- Turn the other cheek (Matt 5)
- Do not resist an evil man (Matt 5)
- Pray for your enemies (matt 5:44)
- Settle disputes early (Luke12:58)
- Confront those who have sinned against you privately first (Matt 18: 15)
- Love covers a multitude of sin (1Peter 4:8)
- While these principles apply in a general sense, we may require specific wisdom for the different types of attack listed in 1-5 above. I hold the assumption that we are innocent of the accusations. If we are guilty, we ought to own up and apologise.
When a crime gets committed against us, we should stand together and make the proper legal response, as well as the notifications required.
On a practical note: no staff member or elder should be writing in public forums defending us without a collective mandate. Neither should they be answering press reporters who phone in or look for personal interviews.