As we remember the martyr St. Valentine, we acknowledge the persecution of Christians that still exists today. For our devotional reading, we turn to Standing Firm: A Christian Response to Hostility and Persecution.
Though in our time Valentine’s Day is known as a day about celebrating love, the Church remembers how the holiday came about: as a day of commemoration for St. Valentine, who was martyred for his faith. As we, too, encounter persecution in its various forms, we ask God to give us strength and focus on His Gospel promises.
Looking back across history, the persecuted Church was sometimes the growing Church, as people turned to God for strength and relief, lived out their reliance on God in front of friends and neighbors, and shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ wherever they went. Even those Christians who became martyrs under false accusation often boldly confessed God’s truth to their jailers and executioners. . . .
Learning from the past, we see that God uses the stress of a situation on personal levels as well as on community or even larger scales. He may preserve a remnant of believers in a given area or location, or He may not, but we are still part of His overarching plans to save as many as possible. As we conform to Christ, as Christ lives in us, we follow Him along this sacrificial path and count it all as joy along the way. We are part of an intricate tapestry, created by God across time, where local details are important to the bigger picture, and the bigger picture is important to the local details.
In this context, we should reconsider some fundamental characteristics of our position as Christians in society. . . . Until He takes us home to heaven, we will serve as salt and light, often without even realizing it at the time. . . . Seeing the situation from God’s point of view, though, starts to give us a sense of that larger picture and sets the stage for us to serve Him as we consider how to respond to hostility.
We may ask, “Why do we encounter hostility?” But it may be more useful to ask, “How would God like to use us in hostile circumstances?” . . . We cannot second-guess the mind of God, but several possibilities might help explain God’s intentions for our difficulties: Our discomfort, even our suffering, might be part of a larger witness to neighbors to help them learn of God’s justice, love, and forgiveness. Our discomfort might be related to God pushing us out of our situational or geographic comfort zone, moving us into situations or locations where He would like to put our time, energy, and witness to use. Our discomfort could be linked to God’s desire to smooth off our rebellious rough spots, discipline us, shape us, and grow us in godliness, love, and dependence upon Him. Ultimately, we must see that our discomfort is part of following in the footsteps of Christ: Jesus came to a hostile world bearing God’s love and was crucified. He knew that this would happen; the sacrifice of Christ was God’s plan all along. Now He chooses to allow each of us to serve as a little Christ (or Christian) to bear God’s love to this hostile world. We take up our cross to fulfill this lovingly sacrificial role, and our response to hostility is indeed rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Devotional reading is from Standing Firm: A Christian Response to Hostility and Persecution, pages 115–16, 118 © 2015 Jesse Yow. Published by Concordia Publishing House.
Heavenly Father, God of peace and harmony, You would have Your children on earth live together in peace and quietness. Frustrate the plans of all evil men who would stir up violence and strife; spoil the weapons of those who delight in war and bloodshed; and according to Your will, end all wars in the world. . . . Mercifully hear my prayer and grant us peace in our days. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Prayer is from Lutheran Book of Prayer, page 166 © 2005 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.