“You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-4).
A man by the name of Michael Sattler, a devoted Anabaptist in the 16th century, was captured by the Roman Catholic authorities and martyred for his faith in Christ Jesus. He told his friends that while he was being burned at the stake, he would give them “a sign”.
Sattler was known for being terrified to die a martyr’s death, but as he was being burned, he lifted up his hands as a sign, showing that it was possible to remain steadfast unto death.
No one wants to be persecuted for what they believe in. It seems impossible that anyone could endure such torture willingly, but such hatred for Christians exists today.
Jesus says to love our enemies, bless those who persecute us, walk with our enemies the extra mile, and pray for them. When someone slaps your cheek, you offer them the other one. Why? Because no one in their right mind would, unless there was something spiritual, supernatural, and surreal about you. Going the extra mile makes people wonder why you’re different. They don’t understand where your strength and patience come from, and it creates curiosity.
The reason why there was finally change in Rome after 300 years is because Christians just wouldn’t give up. They gave all they had. They emptied themselves dry for their enemies, and it changed their enemies. No one fights for someone they are supposed to hate, but a Christian does. The Romans tried with all their might to hate Christians no matter what, but it’s hard to hate someone who just keeps loving you.
Love like that doesn’t come easy. Everyone has heard the phrase, “Love is sacrifice,” and this is so true. When someone who hates you backs you into a corner and slaps you on the cheek, you love them anyways. When someone threatens your family because you believe in Jesus, you love them anyways. When enemies spill innocent blood, and they treat Christians like they’re nothing, you love them anyways.
You see, when push comes to shove, every Christian must decide if they will walk the road of humility and risk being treated like scum for the sake of Jesus. With true persecution comes true revival. That’s how Rome changed and that’s why the fastest growing churches in the world are in countries with the worst Christian persecution. When blood is shed on behalf of Jesus, it lights our fire. Just as Tertullian, an early theologian, once said, “The blood of the martyr is the seed of the church.” When Christian blood is spilt, the church grows because our love for God becomes stronger than the fear of death.
The road to revival is a beaten, bloody path, but let us be ready by the strength of the Spirit to hold up our hands in the middle of the fire and say that we will endure.