[The Lord Jesus Christ] who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (Galatians 1:4-5)
Throughout the letter to the Galatians, Paul testifies to the Person of Jesus. His sacrifice on the cross that gives freedom, redemption, justification, promise, hope. Jesus the giver of eternal life.
When our faith is challenged, our instinct is to fight back; we take it personal. So often our responses only serve to strengthen the argument rather than deflate it. We tend to make it about us and it quickly becomes a no-win situation.
How do you respond? Do you get defensive, do you retaliate in anger or do you speak the truth in (genuine) love?
Time and again Paul had to deal with false teachers whose only aim was to discredit his ministry and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Whether out of greed, hunger for power or zealousness, then as it is today, there were those seeking to wipe out the name of Jesus. I wonder, if we are unable to overcome hateful words, what will become of us when faced with severe persecution? I’ve thought about this often, questioning what I would do if given the choice to deny Jesus or face torture or death. I know that I am weak and in my own strength, I can’t see how I would be able to stand up against such brutality. But here is the hope and assurance that I have: “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:11-12)
I am reminded of the story of Stephen, the first Christian martyr: They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:59-60)
Oh to have strength of faith like Stephen, to pray for our enemies even as they are throwing stones at us.