Stretched Out Still

When Paul said all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12), it was not breaking news or a novel revelation; he merely echoed a long tradition with the children of God.

“From the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple” (Luke 11:51) to the current generation (John 15:8), with everything from the stern, factual truth (Matthew 23:33) to pitying pleadings for repentance (Matthew 23:37-39), God has reached out to people who refuse to listen. Worse, unwilling audiences often lash out in malice toward the messenger who extends the message of God (i.e., Stephen, Acts 7:51ff). The message of submission to God and denial of self is not pleasant, popular or welcome to the itching-ears crowd (2 Timothy 4:3). In fact, even the righteous conduct of Christians serves as a condemnation against those who refuse to order their lives by God’s will (1 Peter 4:4).

What is conspicuously absent from these disturbing accounts of primal rejection is any excuse to cease preaching the Gospel based upon negative responses. This consistent persistence is characteristic of Christians; love demands it (John 3:16). We follow a Savior Who, knowing He would be rejected, came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), even when the lost was not always keen to entertain the possibilities of salvation.

God’s people are set for the defense of the Gospel (Philippians 1:7), and even though this often puts a Christian in direct conflict with rebellious, self-seeking, hard-hearted people, we follow our God and His Son, and “…His hand is stretched out still” (Isaiah 5:25).