Robby Dawkins, a pastor, conference speaker and equipper of the church, shared a powerful testimony at Bethel Church in Redding, CA about persecution his son endured for sharing the gospel. Dawkins and his wife have six sons who grew up watching their parents model ministry as a lifestyle. As their children entered school they began to share the hope of the gospel message with their classmates, which resulted in persecution by their peers.
Dawkins states he was concerned the persecution would turn them away from God, but it had the opposite effect. It made them strong, bold and fearless in sharing their faith.
Judah, the Dawkins’ oldest, experienced persecution when sharing the gospel in high school. He would pray for girls in his class, and as a result, they would stop sleeping with their boyfriends and the boyfriends would retaliate by physically assaulting Judah. A particular group of young men began to regularly attack Judah, one time knocking him out, then dragging him into the street to be hit by a car, hoping he would be killed.
Miraculously, he was rescued by a good samaritan and went right back to sharing the love of Jesus with the same group of guys that left him for dead. One of the boys, while beating Judah, said, “I hate you and I want you to die.” Judah responded, “With every last breath I have, I will keep telling you Jesus loves you, He died for you and He wants to set you free.”
Dawkins asked his son, “How did you have the courage to keep going, even though they were beating you?” Judah’s response: “Dad, I had to get revenge.”
He shared with his father that the Lord had shown him the revenge of God was leading every one of those boys to Jesus. Judah faithfully shared the love of Jesus with those young men until each of them accepted Christ. One of them went on to become the best man at Judah’s wedding and shared in his reception speech that he would have had a drastically different life had Judah not so faithfully committed to sharing the gospel regardless of the persecution he endured.
What does this mean to the American church? I’d like to propose we, as a body of believers in Jesus, haven’t fully embraced God’s concept of revenge. Most of us have adopted a justice system filter through which we view persecution of the church. Perpetrators should be arrested, tried and justice should be served. However, Jesus challenges that very notion when He commanded us to love our enemies, to turn the other cheek, to walk the extra mile—ultimately to respond to violence and accusation through love and service. To love in a moment of harassment and hatred is only possible through the gracious empowerment of Jesus Christ.
In America, facing persecution for our beliefs more often takes the form of verbal disagreement rather than physical altercation. Because we live in a country that protects religious freedoms, we lack exposure to what most of our Christian brothers and sisters endure on a regular basis in countries that do not afford religious freedom.
Persecution for believing in Christ is a reality many face around the world. Furthermore, it is something Scripture celebrates! Matthew 5:10 says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Paul states in 2 Timothy 3:13, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
Testimonies like this force us to assess our own lives and ask the question, “Is my faith in Christ causing me to be persecuted?” If the answer is no, it’s time to evaluate how we are living our lives and if we’ve become comfortable in a Christian bubble. While I am not advocating we go in search of opportunities for physical altercations, I am suggesting many of us (including myself) are living rather safe “Christian” lives.
Prior to writing this article, I was discussing with a friend how I felt this was a season where I was being called to take a greater stand for my faith. There are some issues I’ve remained quiet about due to not wanting to “rock the boat” within my friendship circles, yet I know I’m being called to use my voice to advocate for these issues. The truth is, persecution can be scary.
But the love of Christ is greater.
Romans 8:35 says that nothing, not even persecution, can separate us from the love of Christ. It is this love that compels us to seek the revenge of God—to face whatever persecution might come, that all may know Jesus, His love and the freedom that is possible through His death and resurrection.