28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.
Galatians 4:28-31 ESV
This is a beautiful passage of Scripture. Oddly, I find it both terrifying and comforting at the same time. How is that possible you ask? Allow me to explain. I believe what the author is saying here is that if you and I are truly children of the promise, like Isaac, then we can expect to be treated the same way Isaac was. And it seems that Isaac’s treatment is twofold: Persecution and Inheritance. Let’s focus on the persecution.
I find it both terrifying and comforting at the same time.
So who is the one persecuting Isaac in this passage? Is it some sort of distant enemy or foreign adversary? No, look again. It is someone much closer than that. The main source of all Isaac’s torment is his half-brother Ishmael.
8 And the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. 9 But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, laughing.
Genesis 21:8-9 ESV
Unfortunately, persecution does not only come by those who are strangers unrelated to us (the world), but also by our half-brothers (religious people). Think about it for a second. Jesus was rejected and murdered by his own people. Paul was bitterly opposed by those claiming to be Christian. And even today our greatest enemies are not unbelievers, who when hearing the gospel may embrace it, but rather those within the very walls of our churches.
Even today our greatest enemies are not unbelievers, who when hearing the gospel may embrace it, but rather those within the very walls of our churches.
However, there is a fine line between suffering under persecution and suffering under consequences of sin. Much of the rejection I’ve experienced over the course of my life can somehow be tied into my belief in Jesus, but this doesn’t necessarily mean the rejection I’ve endured is actual persecution. If I’m honest, I must admit there have been many times that I have brought rejection upon myself not by what I said, but by how I said it. Let me be clear. Experiencing rejection for the way you say something is not the same as being persecuted for the sake of Christ.
Experiencing rejection for the way you say something is not the same as being persecuted for the sake of Christ.
If you are enduring hardship because of the way you’ve said something, then what you are experiencing is simply the consequences of sin. As a pastor who primarily teaches through books of the Bible I can tell you firsthand that the Bible is offensive, but so am I. I have hurt many people because of my pride, my insecurity, and my fear. Over the years, these have been the consistent factors that have caused me to say something (that may be true) in such a way that there is a backlash from others.
As a pastor who primarily teaches through books of the Bible I can tell you firsthand that the Bible is offensive, but so am I.
In these moments, I’ve learned that I have a choice. I can either play the victim and chalk everything up to persecution, or I can choose humility and own my sin. Despite knowing this, I still don’t always make the right choice. But I want to do everything I can to choose humility because if there is one thing I know about victims it’s this – victims never grow.