Today’s passage: John 15:18–John 16:5
Focus verse: “They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.” (John 16:2)
Too many people do not see God at work and instead oppose those who follow him in fresh ways.
Jesus warns his followers about what awaits them. First, their church (that is, their synagogue) will expel them. We’ve already seen this threatened in Day 16, “Rule Follower” and Day 22, “Faith or Fear?”
Beyond that, people will kill them. Religious persecution is what Saul (later called Paul) does in the first part of the book of Acts before he encounters Jesus and goes all in to serve his Savior.
These opponents—these persecutors of faith—will do so in the name of their religion. They assume they’re acting in service to God, but their actions oppose him instead.
This means these killers aren’t coming from the world but from within God’s family. Though we should expect persecution from secular society when we go all in to follow Jesus, opposition shouldn’t come from among God’s other children. Yet it does.
Throughout history, this internal persecution happens whenever a new move of God occurs. The biggest movement of God was Jesus coming to fulfill the Old Testament law.
Many of the Jews don’t see this, and so they oppose him. They end up killing him. He’s a martyr and a human sacrifice—one to end the need for all sacrifices.
This pattern of religious conflict continues from the time of Jesus. Consider the Reformation. In that era, Christians opposed other Christians. Christians hated other Christians. And Christians killed other Christians.
Another sad time of Christian versus Christian hostility happened at the birth of the Charismatic movement. This occurred in the early 1900s and again at its rebirth in the 1960s.
Each time God is at work doing a new thing. Each time, many of his people mount a significant opposition. And God’s messengers suffer as a result.
Don’t label the people who follow God into his new ways of doing things as heretics and oppose them.
Instead, we’d be better to heed the words of Gamaliel who tells the religious leaders, “Don’t bother with them. If they’re doing this on their own, they’ll fail. But if it’s of God, we can’t stop them—and could end up fighting against God himself” (Acts 5:38–39).
That is, don’t fight against God and the work he is doing.
When we peer into the past, we easily spot the errors of people who missed seeing God’s movement. It’s much harder to spot God at work when we’re living in the middle of it and people align as being for or against it.
But instead of removing the people we disagree with from our church, we should check and see if God is at work.
Instead of arguing, let’s listen.
- When have you opposed other Christians in the name of religion?
- What can you do to not repeat this mistake?
- When have other Christians opposed or persecuted you? Was it justified?
- How do you react when the world persecutes you?
- What must you do to listen and not argue?
Discover how the early church dealt with disagreement in Acts 15:1–21. What insights can you glean from this passage?
Tips: Check out our tips to use this online Bible study for your church, small group, Sunday school class, or family discussion. It’s also ideal for personal study. Come back each Monday for a new lesson.
Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.