Christians Persecuting Christians?
"Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice." Philippians 1:15-18
As we read Philippians, we read with the understanding that Paul is writing to the saints in Philippi while he was in prison for preaching the gospel of Christ. As we study Philippians 1:15-18 we see that Paul not only faced persecution from unbelievers, he also faced persecution among his brethren in Christ. Think about that for a moment. Paul is a believer and the brethren in Christ are also believers. The common connection that unifies them is Christ, so why would a believer experience persecution from another believer? Christians persecuting Christians?
You might say, persecution is a strong word, but there are varying levels of persecution. Persecution means to suffer or to experience affliction, distress, or trouble. Paul mentioned in verse 17 that some preached Christ with insincerity and motives to benefit themselves, as well as to afflict him or cause him distress while he was in prison. Yet, in the midst of this, Paul focused on his identity in Christ as a bondservant of Christ. He also spoke of grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul was thankful to God that his imprisonment caused the furtherance of the gospel and how it made some of the other brethren more confident and less fearful to share the gospel.
Maybe you’ve experienced persecution from Christians after you’ve openly and frequently expressed your love for Christ or currently while you are serving in ministry, and/or while you have been sharing the gospel. Maybe you’ve experienced persecution after other believers have asked you to share the testimony of your faith or after you’ve used your God-given gifts and talents. The brethren Paul spoke of, preached Christ from envy and strife towards Paul, not out of their love for God or for the furtherance of the gospel. Paul did not seek for attention to be drawn to himself. In essence, this means they resented Paul and how God was using Paul mightily and desired the attention that Paul received. In verse 13, Paul mentioned that his imprisonment became evident to the palace guard and to everyone that he was imprisoned for Christ. The brethren desired to be known just as everyone knew Paul. Selfish motives and selfish ambitions drove the brethren to attempt to afflict Paul while he was imprisoned.
If you are experiencing a form of persecution among fellow believers, remember Paul. He chose to focus on his relationship with Christ and he focused and rejoiced in the furtherance of the gospel – even if it meant his distress or attempts of persecution towards him from his fellow brethren. Paul also remained thankful to God, he thought of his fellow brethren consistently, he prayed for them, and he encouraged them in their relationship with Christ.
So if you are experiencing ridicule, hints of sarcasm, gossip, envy, jealousy, or strife from other Christians because of the cause of Christ; think of Paul and do not succumb to the persecution and please do not, in turn, become a persecutor. Our focus should be preaching Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). Christians please stop persecuting Christians.
Father, thank you for your Word. Please help us, as believers, to encourage one another in the Lord (Hebrews 3:13) and not to compete with one another. Help us to provoke one another to good works (Hebrews 10:24) and to avoid selfish ambition that does not honor You (Philippians 2:3-4; James 3:16). Forgive us for the times that we have persecuted our fellow brethren and/or encouraged another while they were persecuting other brothers and sisters in Christ. Help us to recognize this temptation when it comes and to resist that temptation through the power and the help of the Holy Spirit (James 4:7). In Jesus' name. Amen.
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