Peacemakers in Persecution

Publié le 30 octobre 2021 dans Traductions

Sermon preached by Luc Massou on 24th October 2021

Let’s read Jeremiah chapter 29 verses 5-7

“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.

Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.

Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

In today’s sermon we will hear about the following points:

  1. God wants us to accept and live in our context
  2. God wants us to be peacemakers where he has placed us
  3. How we can be peacemakers
  1. To accept and live in our context

5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.

6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.

>> Jeremiah refers to the Garden of Eden, using similar words in the book of Genesis. After commanding to plant gardens, sow, marry, multiply,… God commands:

« Seek the good of the city where I have led you captive » v.7

There are different translations of the term « good » = « shalom » = peace

Very often we have a concept of peace that is limited to the absence of conflict. But in the Word the word Shalom refers to well-being, in the sense of sustainable development; when everyone can freely eat the fruit of what they have planted, then everyone can provide for themselves, and creation is preserved. 

Shalom is what Adam and Eve experienced in the garden before the fall of sin. They could eat all the fruit (except one) and in this way creation was somehow protected. 

God entrusts the Israelites with the mission of restoring « shalom » in Babylon.

Context of Babylon: pagan city, full of idols, slaves, violent city, full of injustices, sexual abuses and exploitation, social oppression, city totally given over to sin.

The Israelites were supposed to live the law of Moses, among other things « to know how to welcome and bless the oppressed, the widow and the orphan ». (Learn to do good, seek justice, protect the oppressed; do right by the fatherless, defend the widow. Isaiah 1:17)

For them, the concept of seeking welfare was to be in favor of Jerusalem, but here, God commands them to seek welfare in another context quite different: 

Babylon = opposite context, where values contrary to the values of the law of Moses reign. In Babylon, the destiny of the widow and the orphan was not to be blessed, but rather they ended up as slaves or prostitutes; the oppressed were persecuted.

After having ordered to plant gardens, sow, marry, multiply,… 

God commands the Israelites not only to accept and live in this context, but also to « seek the good », in other words the « Shalom » in this violent context. They were to be able to influence, serve, love the Babylonians, going beyond the fact that the Babylonians were corrupt, unjust, idolaters. 

2. To be peacemakers where God places us

It is a matter of being « peacemakers » in a corrupt world, by bearing witness, by living our faith publicly. By making hope in Christ live, by knowing how to forgive, by serving our neighbor.

This model is a mission model comparable to the context of the persecuted church of today. And it is applicable as much in closed countries like the Middle East where the church is persecuted, but it is equally applicable in our western societies which are also increasingly hostile to the church.

Now, faced with hostility or persecution, and in reality very often as a Christian, we have three possible reactions:

a) or we allow ourselves to be influenced by the culture that persecutes us; we surrender and take comfort in sin, normalizing it, and diluting the Gospel so that it « fits » with human desires.

b) or we position ourselves as victims and we will use our defense mechanisms / protection. 

Example: Christian who gets involved in politics only to defend Christians and without concern for others. This is not God’s main objective. If there are to be politicians who are followers of Jesus, let them seek the good and peace of believers as well as non-believers! This is what Jesus calls us to, he even calls us to love his enemies! Christ was quite clear and explicit in His word about this…

c)or we accept our situation as it is and we obey the will of God by seeking the good where we are.

Example of the book of Daniel: 

Daniel was also exiled/captive in Babylon; he found himself in the midst of the Babylonian authorities. He even became an advisor to the king of Babylon. And without having to be king or emperor, Daniel had such an influence that the king was able to recognize the all powerful God of Israel. But before Daniel could influence, he sought to please God by keeping himself pure, and doing good, by adopting the following attitudes: 

– He lived with the Babylonians, learning their language, culture, art and science, and in this way he gained the respect of the Babylonian authorities: 

– However, he did not submit to the unjust values that were contrary to God’s. On the contrary, he remained faithful to God’s values. On the contrary, he remained faithful to God.

– Daniel sought to obey God in a context of persecution, but he was not always defensive, confrontational and oppositional; he did not seek to overthrow the regime of Nebuchadnezzar, but simply sought to be faithful to God, while seeking Shalom for the Babylonians. (>> NEW MISSION MODEL)

> Persecution is a context that we are all supposed to experience in some way as children of God:

« In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. »

Timothy 3:12

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

« Do not worry if you are persecuted; rather worry if you are not » (Chinese Pastor)

>> Should I worry?

« We will have peace as long as we keep our faith to ourselves and do not share it with others. The reason why house church Christians in China are arrested, harassed or imprisoned is because we cannot keep quiet. » (China house church leader)

>> In his Word, God warns us of persecution, not to hurt us, but to give us life. He invites us to trust in his promises:

« For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. » 

Jeremiah 29:11

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, 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.

Matthew 5:10-12

3. How we can be peacemakers

> By being witnesses of hope in Christ where God places us. 

Jesus also lived in contexts of corruption, adultery, prostitution, etc and he brought Shalom, good.

In Luke 17 (11-19), Jesus healed 10 lepers, knowing full well that only 1 out of 10 would recognize him as Lord. Yet Jesus still healed the other 9 lepers. 

Certainly, we are called to proclaim the Gospel so that more people can recognize Jesus. It is a commandment and we must continue to do so! 

But we must understand that we are also called to serve, to love, to restore, to reconcile, to heal man, the image of God, our neighbor, who is so corrupted by sin. We must work at this, and this is also what we are seeking, the Shalom, the common good.

>> Let us question ourselves: do we Christians sometimes choose to serve and love only those who are converted? 

> Seeking the good in the context of captivity / persecution implies learning to love our enemy.

« But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you »

Matthew 5:44

To love the one who persecutes us, what a strange commandment from Jesus… 

Jesus makes us understand by this that the bad actions of people are actually calls for help. Acts of persecution are the consequence of the suffering of people who do not know God or who have received a bad testimony of the Gospel. Behind a bad action, there is a person with a story.

This call of Jesus invites us not to consider bad deeds as attacks but rather as calls for help.

We must understand these « cries for help » not by condemning but by looking at the other person with the eyes of Jesus, and listening to him.

We must be « bridges » not « walls ».

God gives us the ability to respond to the reality of people, because of the identity in Christ that he gives us. It is our DECISION to have the heart of God and the mind of Christ. If we don’t consider our identity as a child of God, then we will do things in our own strength, and we will find it hard to respond:

If we don’t feel loved by God >> it’s hard to love.

If we feel condemned by God >> we will easily condemn

If we do not feel forgiven by God >> we will have difficulty forgiving.

4. Pray to the Lord on ones behalf

God could act and solve everything now and all by himself. But it is not so. He expects His people to do their part in fulfilling His mission. 

God expects us to serve, to do good, to bring « shalom », but He expects much from us through prayer:

« Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper » 

Jeremiah 29:7

Power of prayer :

example of a bonesetter who could not do his work when the church was united in his city…

      – Revival in Kabylia, and in China

      – Jesus revealed in the life of terrorists… just like the apostle Paul…

> We must depend on God and nothing else to live.

> We must call upon his Holy Spirit, through prayer.

> Our happiness depends on his: 

« Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. »

Jeremiah 33:3