Regarding persecution: If another Christian from our own congregation were being mistreated by the powers that be and we (a.) knew it (b.) did not want to know it and pretended it wasn’t happening (c.) assumed they brought it upon themselves and ignored it, would we also be guilty of persecuting them?
I’m thinking of when a bully picks on someone smaller than they are and all the strong boys stand around blind. Are fear, comfort, and complacency acceptable excuses when brothers and sisters are abused by the ungodly? Is it wisdom to “stay out of it?” if they aren’t from our group but we have insight into the abuse?
How does that affect our responsibility regarding the persecuted church abroad? How does it affect what we do or do not do for those within our sphere of direct influence? Does it matter? Will we be accountable if we do nothing or is it ok to let others fight their own battles for the faith and not really get involved? How would you feel if you were made a criminal by the ungodly and those from your own church followed suit out of cowardice and suspicion? How would you feel if you knew others from another country had the means to help you but chose not to?
My questions are: What is our responsibility when and if those we know personally are unjustly treated? What about those we do not know personally who belong to the faith? Is there judgement for those who fail to assist or is it simply a matter of personal conviction in each situation where God calls those whom he will to support those suffering for their faith?
I consulted Matthew Henry. Because this issue is so closely related to giving – be it of our concern, our time, our money, our allegiance, or our consolation, I thought of the rich man and Lazarus.
“Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. ~Luke 16:25
God loves a cheerful giver, though, right? Give not reluctantly or under compulsion, rather, each one must give as he has decided in his heart. So then, what is the damnable fault of this rich man? Surely he “gave.” But he did not give in such a way that it pleased God. Surely he gave to his friends and family. Surely he threw exquisite banquets and spared no expense for those he preferred. But what was at the center of his giving? It was not God. It was all for pomp, pride, and selfishness.
“And he said, ‘No,’ father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” ~Luke 16:30
After death, the rich man knew that overlooking the needs, affliction, and poverty placed in front of us is a sin requiring repentance. Overlooking the needs, affliction, and poverty placed in front of us is a sin requiring repentance.
Here is Henry’s insight.
“That plenty and pleasure are a very dangerous and to many a fatal temptation to luxury and sensuality, and forgetfulness of God and another world. This man might have been happy if he had not had great possessions and enjoyments. That the indulgence of the body, and the ease and pleasure of that, are the ruin of many a soul, and the interests of it. It is true, eating good meat and wearing good clothes are lawful; but it is as true that they often become the food and fuel of pride and luxury, and so turn into sin to us. That feasting ourselves and our friends, and, at the same time, forgetting the distresses of the poor and afflicted, are very provoking to God and damning to the soul. The sin of this rich man was not so much his dress or his diet, but his providing only for himself.”
“We are not told that he abused him, or forbade him his gate, or did him any harm, but it is intimated that he slighted him; he had no concern for him, took no care about him. Here was a real object of charity, and a very moving one, which spoke for itself; it was presented to him at his own gate. The poor man had a good character and good conduct, and every thing that could recommend him. A little thing would be great kindness to him, and yet he took no cognizance of his case, did not order him to be taken in and lodged in the barn, or some of the out-buildings, but let him lie there. Note, it is not enough to oppress and trample upon the poor; we shall be found unfaithful stewards of our Lord’s goods, in the great day, if we do not succour and relieve them. The reason given for the fearful doom is, I was hungry, and you gave me no meat. I wonder how those rich people who have read the gospel of Christ and say that they believe it can be so unconcerned as they often are in the necessities and miseries of the poor and afflicted…Note, those will have a great deal to answer for hereafter that feed their dogs, but neglect the poor. And it is a great aggravation of the uncharitableness of many rich people that they bestow that upon their fancies and follies which would supply the necessity, and rejoice the heart of many a good Christian in distress. Those offend God, nay, and they put a contempt upon human nature, that pamper their dogs and horses, and let eh families of their poor neighbors starve.”
“This rich man had entirely devoted himself to the pleasure of the world of sense, was wholly taken up with them, and took up with them for his portion, and therefore was wholly unfit for the pleasures of the world of spirits…he was hard-hearted to God’s poor, and therefore he is not only cut off from mercy, but he has judgment without mercy, and falls under a punishment of sense as well as a punishment of loss.”
“The tendency of the gospel is both to reconcile us to poverty and affliction and to arm us against temptations to worldliness and sensuality…Our Savior came to bring us acquainted with another world, and to show us the reference which this world has to that. Those that are not able to help the poor with their purses should help them with their pains; those that cannot lend them a penny should lend them a hand.” ~Matthew Henry