Betrayed With A Kiss: Persecution From Within The Body Of Christ
Jesus called believers to love one another, saying, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20).
So why are professing believers helping fuel the fire by persecuting their own?
Is it “friendly fire” where maybe they are blinded, having scales on their eyes because of unrepentant sins, and somehow can’t see how dangerous their attacks are – unwittingly playing into prophecy?
“They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming when everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to GOD. These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me.” John 16:2-3
“…I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute. But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all because of My name…” Luke 21:15-17
Or are they wolves amongst the sheep, like Judas, planted by Satan to destroy us from within?
“While He was still speaking, behold, a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was preceding them; and he approached Jesus to kiss Him. But Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?'” Luke 22:47, 48
Perhaps we’ve grown too comfortable in the freedom of religion originally granted to us in this country. Christians in other countries who are regularly persecuted for their faith they have learned to watch out for and protect each other. Unfortunately, American Christians are having to learn the hard way to “circle the wagons” and watch each other’s backs.
“Jesus warned that the way of faith includes suffering. Indeed, many early Christians were beaten or killed for His sake, and faith is still met with harsh persecution in various places around the world…each of us has encountered ridicule, misunderstanding or lost relationships because we follow Christ. Even mild persecution can cause us to question whether living out our faith is worth the sacrifice. The truth is, it’s the best way to live. GOD responds to faith by enabling His children to endure difficulty, demonstrating His power in their circumstances and providing joy.” – Dr. Charles F. Stanley, In Touch Ministries
We know that we will be hated in this world: “If the world hates you, you know that it is has hated Me before it hated you…If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:18, 20), but when the persecution comes from within the brethren it’s the hardest to take, isn’t it?
“Now Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place, for Jesus had often met there with His disciples. Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons.” John 18:2, 3
So how do we handle friendly fire and/or wolves amongst the sheep, especially when we don’t know if the persecution is intentionally meant to put us in the crossfire of the enemy or not? I suggest we handle it the same way we are instructed in the Word: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17
In the end, if we hold fast to Him and His Word throughout the persecution – whether from friendly fire, wolves or outright enemies of the Church, we will be rewarded with eternal life in Heaven with our LORD. In the meantime, we must stand together, look out for one another, and not harden our hearts towards one another, especially for those who “are being led by the Spirit of God…sons of God” (Romans 8:14) and will inherit the Kingdom.
“Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, while it is said, ‘TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS, AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME.’ For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.” Hebrews 3:12-19
“And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the Word of GOD, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” Revelation 20:4-6