Many of us have committed sins and we knew that it was wrong to do what we have done. Maybe we spoke unkindly about a neighbour, or maybe we lusted after something or someone that we were not supposed to; and God forgives us of these things if we put our whole faith in Him. But there are some sins we commit and didn’t know that we committed them – we were ignorant and did not know.
This happened to some people in the Bible. They were angry at Christians and persecuted them but they did not know that it was wrong to do so. Let’s look at Paul, the great apostle. This is what the Bible says about Paul:
“A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria. (Some devout men came and buried Stephen with great mourning.) But Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison.” – Acts chapter 8
Paul was there when the first Christian martyr was killed – a man by the name of Stephen. So Paul was very guilty of sinning against the Lord: Paul killed Christians; tortured others; put some in prison; and really had the spirit of the anti-Christ in him.
In a letter that Paul wrote to his young disciple and student named Timothy Paul explains that he was ignorant and did not know what he was doing and because of his ignorance God was very merciful to him.
We read this in the 1st letter to Timothy 1:13 “I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent man; yet because I had acted in ignorance and unbelief, I was shown mercy.”
So it is possible that some people who persecute Christians are ignorant and do not know that it is wrong to do so. That is why we as Christians need to respond to them in love and show them the love of Christ so that they might see and understand that they are doing something wrong. If they see how nice and good we behave when we are being persecuted then they will think about it and some of them will see that we are good people because we have the Spirit of God inside of us and some of them might come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as their own personal Saviour.
Stephen forgave his killers
Stephen was a man who believed that Jesus Christ was the Lord and Saviour: Stephen was a man who was “full of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:55). Many people tried to argue with Stephen to show that he was wrong, “But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.” (Acts 6:10). Stephen was very wise and filled with the Holy Spirit.
The religious leaders did not like Stephen because Stephen preached and taught that Jesus was the Messiah and Lord prophesied in the Old Testament. So they brought some false charges against him and condemned Stephen to death. As they were stoning Stephen to death here is what he said:
“You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That’s what your ancestors did, and so do you! Name one prophet your ancestors didn’t persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One—the Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered. You deliberately disobeyed God’s law, even though you received it from the hands of angels.”
The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”
Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.
Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen.” – Acts chapter 7.
Jesus forgave those who killed Him
Even Jesus knew and understood that those who were killing Him did not understand what they were doing. The Jewish religious leaders condemned Jesus to death. They influenced the Roman rulers to put Jesus to death by nailing Him to a cross. The crowds of Jewish people cheered when Jesus was walking to His death on top of Mount Golgatha where His cross would be planted into the ground.
These people knew they were killing Jesus but they thought that Jesus was a bad person because He said the He was God; they did not realize that Jesus as God, that Jesus came from heaven, that Jesus was the bread of life, that Jesus was the one who could give them eternal life if they put their whole faith in Him.
Here is what Jesus said when He was dying while nailed on the cross:
“Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left.
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.” – Luke 23
So we see that Paul, the Jewish leaders who killed Stephen, and even those who killed Jesus did not know what they were doing – they were ignorant. And God had mercy on them all. In the book of Acts were read later where Peter was preaching and telling the people about Jesus Christ and Peter told them that they made a very big mistake by killing Jesus. The people who heard Peter preach realized what they had done and prayed and asked Jesus to forgive them of their sins.
Let us listen and read about it in the book of Acts:
““People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him. But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip.”
““So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!”
Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!”
Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.” – Acts chapter 2.
So be kind and forgive those who persecute you
Don’t worry about what you are going to eat, what you are going to drink, where you are going to live, and what you are going to wear. Your Father in heaven knows that you need these things and He will provide for you.
We are servants of the Most High God, we are His ambassadors here on earth to bring the Good News about Jesus Christ to this sick and dying world. We have a wonderful job to proclaim the Good News to people and watch them change and grow as they believe in Christ and accept the Holy Spirit.
So do not be angry with those who hate you because of Christ. Do not be afraid or turn back from Christ in fear. These things must happen to those of us who believe in Jesus Christ and who stand for our faith in Him.
Our love and patience will win their souls for Christ. We will conquer everything with love because the Bible says that love Conquers ALL. So let us love others, forgive them if they harm us, and continue proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ.
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.
When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13