Embracing Persecution: Pastor Ken Graves, Part 2
Teaching by Pastor Ken Graves
This is Part 2 of a teaching delivered by Ken Graves, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Bangor in Central Maine, at the Southeast Calvary Chapel Pastors’ Conference in February. In Part 1, he urged the pastors to embrace persecution and introduced the topic in Part 2: what forgiveness is and how to do it. To read Part 1, click here.
[In these days of persecution], we are going to have a whole lot more to forgive.
What if already we find our hearts embittered by the stuff that Christians have done? The betrayals, the division, the dividers, those people who talk that big talk about love in a church, and as soon as they leave it, they’re attacking it online. I know what it’s like to receive all kinds of that insulting and truly offensive, written reproof. It seldom comes face to face.
Long ago, when I was still in my 30s, I made a statement. Somebody misunderstood it and he wrote to me with such arrogance: “You, sir, are ungrateful.” My statement was [that] unless the Lord watches the city, the watchman watches in vain. America will not be protected by our military might. We’re vulnerable if we’re estranged from the Lord. It wasn’t a statement meant to disrespect the military.
I tried to respond, with trembling hands—not to react. In order to do the right thing, most of the time you have to do the second thing that comes to mind. I responded, “You misunderstood.” Then, I don’t know where it came from, [I wrote] this sentence: “I would advise you to never say any of those things to me to my face.” I’m hovering over the “send” button, and I hit it. As soon as I hit it, I went, “Wait. What’s that going to do to another prideful man?” Fortunately, he didn’t take it as a threat. [That sentence] was so carnal, so wrong.
Living by Faith and Forgiveness
God has taught me how to love my enemies.
Habakkuk says in Chapter 2:4b, “But the just shall live by his faith.” That is repeated no less than three times: in Romans 1, Galatians 3, and Hebrews 10. We must live by faith, not by what we feel. What is faith? Faith is our response to the revelation of God. Faith is believing what He has said and acting upon it. You cannot “feel” your way into right living. But you can, in fact, live your way into right feeling if you will do what the Lord has commanded us to do toward our enemies and those who wrong us. And it [had] better start now with church folk who have burned you.
It may well be that there are more women in this room infected by the bitterness of what people, church folks, have done against your husbands [pastors]. They’ll stab him, and you’ll do the bleeding. But it’s likely I have brothers here who are also embittered. I’ve had my share [of that], and I’d better be able to take it, because I certainly shovel it out. You can’t be all touchy—”How dare you!” We must, in fact, embrace persecution, and with that, learn how—now—to forgive. Forgiveness is not a feeling; it’s an act of the will, a choice. Forgiveness is an act of faith, an act of canceling the debt. It’s an act of my will that I will pray “good” [on them].
Blessing and cursing is something we don’t know anything about in this modern world. Cursing, which we’re not supposed to engage in, is the out-loud expression of the evil that you wish would come upon someone. The ancient world was good at it. We’re so bad at blessing. We just go, “God bless you,” and think that’s it. That’s way falling short of “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26). Think of all the things you could say: “God give you wisdom.” We’re called to bless. In fact, we’re even called to bless those who curse—bless and curse not. Blessing, out loud, is expressing the good will that you have, the choice that you have made.
When the Son of God [talked about forgiving] from your heart, He wasn’t talking about your soul, your feelings. Some of you say, “I’ve tried, but I just can’t.” What you mean is that you can’t stop feeling negatively about the wrong that they did. You’re not supposed to. What they did was wrong. Forgiving is not a feeling. It’s a choice, an action. And I urge you, learn now. Pray for those who have spitefully used you—everything the Son of God said about our duty toward our enemies was a call to action. None of it was a call to feeling. When he said, “from the heart,” he was talking about a much deeper place—as one who has been forgiven, one who has been in need of mercy, as one who wills to do the will of his or her King. Forgive from the heart.
“But I [Jesus] say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.” Luke 6:27-28
A Personal Example
I had an enemy I wanted to kill so badly … I had business with that man. I agonized over it. In order to love my enemy, I had to actually NOT do what I felt like doing. I had to fight so hard. Over time, it became less of a fight against emotion. The fire within was being put out by prayer, by every gesture, by every reached-out hand. Ultimately the day came when I could actually grab his hand and pull him over and hug him. He became my friend. I don’t know if he ever really changed, but he ceased to be my enemy. Later, cancer took him as his lifestyle took its toll.
He was the worst enemy [I’ve faced], and I’ve had many others. Now there are people saying things about me all over my state. But God used that man to set me up to know how to deal with all these others. The Lord Jesus’ teaching must be applied.
All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.
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