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36_Responses to Persecution

36_Responses to Persecution - Responses to Persecution...

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Unformatted text preview: Responses to Persecution Nature of Persecution Two Types State-sponsored persecution Nero's persecution of Christians in Rome after A.D. 64 In the first century this was not typical and was limited geographically Tacitus's Annuals Informal suffering due to mob action Type of pressure a majority culture places upon a minority culture when they deviate too much from the societal norms. Primary objective was to get Christians to apostatize not to kill them Pliny's letter to Trajan Pagan Attitudes towards Christians Accused Christians of: Atheism (rejection of the pagan pantheon) Thyestean banquets (cannibalism) [Minucius Felix, Octavius] Oedipodean banquets (incest) worshipping a crucified man abandoning Greek religion believing in the resurrection accepting doctrines by faith rather than by rational demonstration Despised Christians for: [cf. Lucian, On the Death of Peregrinus and Celsus, True Doctrine] Pagans believed to change one's gods disrupted society: Incurred the wrath of the gods Evidenced that one would not obey the emperor Disrupted order in the household Isolated a person from society Thus society attempted to enforce conformity in behavior. This was the aim of the early persecution of Christians. Not only were their bodies attacked by the plague; varied superstition made its way into human spirits too, mostly from the outside, when people exploited those afflicted by religious madness, by claiming to be seers and introducing new sacrificial customs into the houses, until finally the leading men among the citizens were moved to shame at the generality of the populace. For they saw in every block of houses and in every little sanctuary alien and unknown expiatory sacrifices intended to beseech the gods to show favor. Therefore, the aediles were charged to see that only the Roman gods were worshipped, and this in now way other than that inherited from the fathers. (Livy Urb. Cond. 4.30.9-11) Hebrews The persecution that Hebrews addresses is the informal type. Hebrews 10:32-33; 12:4 Christians had deviated too far from societal norms and extreme attempts by the dominant pagan society were being made to bring them back into conformity with those norms. The problem that Hebrews addresses is spiritual lethargy or confessional cowardness in the face of growing societal opposition. Hebrews 5:11, 6:12 (they have become "dull") Hebrews 10:39 (tempted to "shrink back") The dominant image in Hebrews is that the Christian life is a pilgrimage into God's rest, into the heavenly temple, or to the New Jerusalem. (cf. Heb 11:13-16; 13:13) Hebrews echoes early Christian preaching that only those who endure faithfully in their Christian pilgrimage will finally be saved. (Heb 3:6, 14; 6:13; 10:25-26; cf. Matt 10:22; Acts 14:22) How does Hebrews, then, respond to the need of its auditors to persevere in their Christian pilgrimage in the face of persecution? Strategy of Hebrews "Consider Jesus" Jesus is God's Son through whom God has spoken with finality (Heb 1:2) Do not ignore the message spoken by God's exalted Son (Heb 2:1-5; cf. 12:25) Jesus is the Christians' champion who has defeated the Devil and their subjection to the fear of death (Heb 2:10-15) Jesus, therefore, leads the Christian pilgrims to "glory" (Heb 2:10) Jesus serves as an example of faithfulness in the face of suffering Heb 12:2-3 Future orientation of faith (cf. Heb 10:32-11:40) The Christian hope is based upon the certainty of God's promise (Heb 6:17) and indestructible life of Jesus (Heb 7:24-25) Jesus serves as a vision of the faithful Christian's hope. Heb 2:5-9 Jesus has already been enthroned in the world-tocome (i.e., "perfected") and is a guarantee of the promised inheritance for those God has called. Jesus deals with the problem of human sin by inaugurating the New Covenant. Jesus enters into the heavenly temple where he serves as the High Priest and inaugurates the New Covenant (Heb 6:20-21; 9:15) Jesus' high priestly ministry purifies the believer's conscience so that they may draw near to God and serve Him (Heb 9:14; 4:16; 10:19-22). In this way Jesus enables the faithfulness of God's people to persevere in the face of present suffering. Ongoing purification by Christ's high priestly ministry Continued approach to God Necessary grace and mercy from God's "throne" for ongoing faithfulness A Biblical View of Suffering Divine punishment for sin In this life (Ps 38:3; 1 Cor 11:29-30) In the hereafter (Dan 12:1; Rev 21:8) Prov 3:11-12; Wis 17:1 Rom 5:3-4; James 1:2-3 Heb 12:4-11 Gen 50:15-21 Mark 10:45 Gal 1:3-4; Phil 1:12-14; 2 Tim 2:9-10 Divine education for spiritual development Benefit to others in some way ...
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