You’ll be persecuted. Get ready to not defend yourself.

by K.W. Leslie, 25 April

Mark 13.9-11, Matthew 10.17-20, Luke 12.11-12, John 14.26.

After Jesus said the temple’d come down, his students wanted to know what that looked like, so Jesus gave the Olivet Discourse. How the Romans would destroy the temple in the great tribulation. And while he was at it, how Christians would be persecuted too—advice we’ve used throughout the Christian era, because we’ve been persecuted since the beginning. In many parts of the world, still are.

As a result a number of Christians are steeling ourselves for it. “When they come for me, here’s what I’m gonna do.” And many Americans are planning to do some pretty violent things. Simon Peter with a machete type things. They got their gun stockpiles. They got their armor-piercing bullets and 50mm rounds. Peter only cut off an ear; they’re planning to mow down as many cops and soldiers as they can. Even though many of ’em claim they “love” our police, “love” our troops. Sure, when politically convenient. But those sentiments will turn on a dime.

As for those Christians who don’t have a murdery side, a number of us are already planning our ἀπολογία/apología, our defense. It’s the root-word of apologetics, the study and practice of “defending the faith,” by which they really mean arguing with antichrists. I spent a lot of time studying Christian apologetics because I likewise wanted to verbally spar with people who reject Jesus; I ignored Jesus’s instructions to shake the dust off my feet over them, Mt 10.14 because being argumentative is way more fun. And fleshly, but let’s just pretend it’s not; that it’s spiritual warfare instead.

What did Jesus actually teach about defending ourselves? When, after religious hypocrites take over our states and get ’em to turn against compassionate followers of Jesus, they haul us before the person or people in charge, to condemn us for promoting Jesus’s kingdom instead of their “Christian nation”now what do we do?

Well, some of us have speeches prepared. Something like Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” although not as eloquent. Some kind of personal testimony, or defense of our rights, or defense of Christianity. Something where we stand up for Jesus on just such an occasion. Not quite the same as when we share Jesus with strangers, because this is a hostile audience, so we’re prepared to be just a little hostile right back. Although depending on the Christian, we’re either trying really hard not to… or we’ve ditched the passive aggression and we’re gonna be full-on aggressive.

But if we’re legitimately trying to follow Jesus instead of venting our own spleen, perhaps we oughta read what Jesus teaches his students to do.

Mark 13.9-11 KWL
9 “Watch yourselves. They’ll hand you over to senates and synagogues.
You’ll be scourged. You’ll be tried before leaders and kings because of your witness to me.
10 It is necessary to first proclaim the gospel to every nation.
11 Whenever they might take you, to hand you over,
don’t prepare anything you might speak, nor practice it.
Instead, whatever might be given you at that hour, speak that.
For you aren’t the speaker; the Holy Spirit is.”
Matthew 10.17-20 KWL
17 “Be aware of the people, for they’ll hand you over to senates,
and have you flogged in their synagogues.
18 You’ll be dragged before leaders and kings because of me,
as a witness to them and the nations.
19 Whenever they might hand you over,
don’t stress out about how or what you might speak.
20 For you aren’t the speaker;
your Father’s Spirit is speaking in you.”
Luke 21.12-15 KWL
12 “Before everything in the End Times happens,
they will get their hands on you, will hunt you down,
handing you over to the synagogues and wardens,
dragging you off before kings and leaders because of my name.
13 They will want a testimony out of you.
14 So determine in your minds to not prepare a defense.
15 For I will give you a mouth and wisdom,
which your every opponent won’t be able to withstand or contradict.”
Luke 12.11-12 KWL
11 “Whenever they might bring you into the synagogues,
and before princes and powers,
don’t stress out about how or with what you might defend yourself,
nor what you might say.
12 For the Holy Spirit will teach you,
in that hour, what’s necessary to say.”
John 14.26 KWL
“The helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name:
This person will teach you everything.
He’ll remind you of everything I told you.”

A conversational relationship. Or not.

Jesus’s statements presume his students—us included—have a conversational relationship with the Holy Spirit. It’s where our prayers aren’t just unidirectional, where we talk but don’t listen. It’s where of course we listen; we’ve been listening. So we know what the Spirit is telling us… so we don’t have to put together prepared statements, ’cause we know the Spirit’s in the room with us, telling us what to say.

Too many Christians, including people who might get hauled before authorities for what they claim they’re doing in Jesus’s name, don’t have this kind of relationship with the Holy Spirit. He’s in them, same as he’s in every Christian, but they deny he talks to them that way. Or they think if he does talk, they imagine he only speaks in bible quotes. (To hear them describe it, turns out it’s an awful lot of out-of-context bible quotes. Which I point out is how you know that’s certainly not the Spirit. Misquoting bible is a Satan thing, not a God thing.) So when they have to defend themselves, they never listened to him before; they’re hardly gonna start now. They’re either gonna defy Jesus and go with some apologetic argument they’ve pre-prepared… or they’ll ad lib something, but without any Holy Spirit in it, it’s not gonna do what Jesus described in the Olivet Discourse. It’ll be far more pathetic.

Y’might notice I mentioned “what they claim they’re doing in Jesus’s name.” If they’re not in conversation with the Spirit, stands to reason they’re not following him all that closely. More often they’re projecting what they want upon the Spirit, upon Jesus, upon the scriptures, upon Christianity. If they’re “talking to God” at all, it’s a sock-puppet thing, proven by the fact they’ve never confirmed what “God” tells them, and think they’re not allowed to, lest it show a condemnable lack of faith. Hence they’re doing all sorts of things in Jesus’s name, but Jesus has nothing to do with what they’re up to. Their campaigns, their boycotts, their rallies, their “worship protests”—anything in which they’re being dicks instead of being like Jesus; anything in which they promote a Christian nation instead of Jesus’s kingdom. And frighteningly, some of their ministries are likewise not Jesus’s idea—so pay particular attention to their fruit. It’ll tell you whether they listen to the Spirit any.

For those of us who are listening to the Spirit: Yes, we’ll be stressed out over what authorities might do to us. If we’ve grown up in comfortable families or countries where Christians aren’t under any threat of death, being under such a threat can be a serious shock to the system—and if our emotions are running high, it’s really hard to focus and listen to anybody at that time, including the Holy Spirit. We’ll lose our cool, and shout at him, “Talk to me! Tell me what to say!”—and not care for his answer, “I’ll tell you at the trial. Not before. I got this. Trust me.” Even if we do trust him, we’re gonna be really tempted not to. Really tempted to prepare our own statement, instead of waiting for his.

Heck, I know Spirit-filled Christians who have already prepared their statements: It’s why their gun cabinet is well-stocked. They don’t trust the Spirit, but they do trust their guns. Which is why Jesus said those who live by their weapons will die by them. Mt 26.52 Live by the Spirit. Get rid of those fleshly impulses to fight your way out of your circumstances. Trust him.

If these Spirit-filled Christians have honestly spoken with the Spirit about this subject, instead of avoiding it ’cause they never wanna give up their idols guns for him, they’ll know better than to think of their stockpiles as their safety net. It may be a struggle, but ultimately they do trust the Spirit, and know he’s gonna tell us what to say when we have to make a statement. He’s good like that.

Doesn’t hurt to practice!

When you share Jesus with others, how often do you put aside your pre-prepared evangelism talking points, and listen what the Holy Spirit has to say to this person?

I try to do it every time. I admit, I don’t always. But you realize when we share Jesus with others, we are in a very similar situation to a persecuted Christian on trial. We may not be persecuted, but we are on trial: The people we speak to are making up their mind whether we’re someone to listen to, or someone to dismiss as ridiculous. Or, like many an ancient judge, they already have their minds made up, and it’s gonna take direct intervention from the Holy Spirit to break through to them.

The reason the first Christians found they could fall back on the Spirit when they stood before senates and synagogues, was because they’d grown used to falling back on him when they shared the gospel with a new city. Because they knew a predetermined sermon wouldn’t have the same impact as the living God who knows everything, including very intimate things, about the people they’re trying to reach. It’s why we don’t see anyone, anyone, in the New Testament use a canned speech: They’d engage people unconventionally, same as Jesus.

John 4.16-19 KJV
16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. 17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: 18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. 19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.

Well duh he’s a prophet. But if Jesus had stuck to a script, the Samaritan he spoke with wouldn’t have known it. She’d have thought he’s only some weirdo talking about water that permanently cures one of thirst, Jn 4.14 as if such water exists. Drop a word of knowledge onto people, and they’ll realize there’s something far more to you: You know stuff, because the living God tells you stuff. And might, through you, tell them stuff.

This is how the Spirit, speaking through us, empowers our preaching, our evangelism, and our defenses of Christianity: It wakes people up to the fact we’re not doing this stuff alone. We’re working with God. These are his ideas; this is his church; we’re his people. (Assuming of course they are, and we are.) You wanna grow his kingdom farthest, you gotta tap his power. It’s not an absolute guarantee of success; plenty of people resist his grace, y’know. But if he can’t get through to them, you certainly had no chance.

Anyway this is how we get ready for the day—which hopefully won’t come—when we have to stand trial for our affiliation with Jesus. Can we step back and let our Advocate defend us, or are we stupidly gonna try to act as our own attorneys? Get in the habit of having him empower our speech, and it’ll be mighty easy to have him empower that someday speech.