Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Persecution is part of the package

One characteristic of Christian movements throughout history seems to be that of persecution. As a general rule of thumb persecution is used by God to shape and deepen a movement. Earlier this week a group of us met to pray and as part of that we read the dramatic story in Acts 12 where Peter was imprisoned by Herod. James, the brother of John had been executed previously and Herod, thinking he was on to a good thing was preparing to put Peter on trial for his life. Earlier, Stephen had been stoned, which initiated a great persecution resulting in believers being scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.(Acts 8:1b)

It also appears that God will limit persecution when it is contrary to his divine purpose. Hence the miraculous escape of Peter from prison. As it was for the church in the New Testament, so it was for the Primitive Methodist pioneers. Their preachers faced the anger and violence of unruly mobs and injustice from magistrates. In 1818 John Wedgwood was the first in a long line of preachers to be sent to jail. Many a Primitive Methodist faced jeers and insults, not least of which was to be called a Ranter. Their motto, printed on their membership tickets was taken from Acts 28:22 - "we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect".

It may well be the experience of contemporary Christian movements to experience some form of persecution, as our Western society moves from a post-Christian outlook and becomes increasingly anti-Christian.