There are examples in scripture of dramatic turnarounds. Joseph was kidnapped and sold into slavery by his brothers. His response is interesting. Joseph did not lightly dismiss the evil that was done to him. He dealt with his brothers, ultimately winning them back, but not before testing them severely. Joseph saw beyond what had happened to him. He realized that although they had intended harm, God used the circumstances for good. A serious famine was averted. These events were designed to illustrate in advance the much greater work of Jesus Christ. Christ was murdered by wicked men, but God’s purpose is human salvation.

It is sometimes said that we should forgive those who sin against us even before or without any change in their attitude. This is almost, but not quite correct. Our genuine aim should be the recovery of those who are perpetrating evil. However sin is not forgiven without a turnaround in the heart and life of the sinner. What we should earnestly desire and seek for is their repentance so that they will be forgiven.

Act 7:60  And falling to his knees he [Stephen] cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

The only way that God will not hold a sin against a sinner is if the sinner repents. Stephen’s prayer did not go unanswered. One of the main participants in his murder was Saul of Tarsus, a persecutor of Christians, who turned around to become the great Christian Apostle Paul. However that was in the future; Paul was not forgiven until he changed.

The apostles’ view was that suffering because of their faith in Jesus was a privilege.

Act 5:41  Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.

Persecution of those close to us can be even harder to endure than when it happens to ourself. The same principles apply though.

It is not always easy to remember this when I or someone close to me is persecuted, and it is hard not to nurture bitter feelings.

 

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