Cross thoughts: Christian ideas seen in Sudanese every day life.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you”.
My friend Thomas works for the Evangelical Church in Sudan, visiting prisons and prisoners.
Most prisoners he met ten years ago when I was in Khartoum with him were in prison because they had broken the law and deserved their sentences given by the Law Court judges.
May be a few were there because they were being challenged by the authorities about their following of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is this that we rightly call “persecution”.
To “persecute” means, “to oppress, harass, or maltreat, especially because of race or religion”. It means, “to bother persistently”.1
The natural, human response to being treated this way is to want to retaliate – to give back as good as you have got! Our Lord Jesus said that He does not wantHis followers to fight back in the same way worldly people do.
From these verses I see three helps towards a right response.
1. Look towards heaven and away from earth. Christians are heavenly people. More than any tribal loyalties, Sudanese Christians have a loyalty to their heavenly identity document or passport. We are citizens of heaven living on African earth.
2. Be confidently happy in your Lord Jesus. Think about the pain He went through in order to achieve your salvation. He suffered for you. Now you are suffering a little – or even a lot – for Him. Compared to eternity this little bit of time, weeks, months, even years, will be very small. It is right to long for Jesus’ return to bring this suffering to an end.
3. Think about your heavenly reward. This is not speaking about salvation, which is already ours. This is extra.
A “reward” is “something given in return for a deed or for service given”. Incredibly, in the next life, the real life, our Lord Jesus will reward us. We do not deserve anything, but from His grace we will receive what He feels we should have.
So, worship Him now, and say a big “Thank you”. He deserves it.
1 Collins English Dictionary (HarperCollins: Glasgow)1994.