This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled Extreme Devotion, compiled by the Voice Of the Martyrs.  In the following passage, the account of Valeriu Gafencu in Romania provides us with fodder for reflection and perhaps application:

Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:37)

Valeriu Gafencu and his family had lost their father and had suffered greatly at the hands of Communist torturers.  Yet he had nothing bad to say about the Communists who had brought so much pain to his family.  How could he endure so much and not speak out against his torturers?

He answers:  "When King David was in a bad predicament, Shimei threw stones at him, cursed him, and accused him of crimes he didn't commit (2 Samuel 16).  One of David's soldiers was ready to kill Shimei, but David stopped him.  He let Shimei curse, for the Lord had ordered him.  David knew himself to be innocent of what Shimei had accused him of, but he also recognized that he was guilty of other sins of which Shimei knew nothing."

"The Communists call us bandits and enemies of the people, which we're not.  But we all are guilty of not being exemplary saints growing more like Christ. Our reply to the Communists' misdeeds should not be hatred but inner renewal.  Beams of holiness gushing from us will destroy the evil. The Greek word for God, theos, comes from a word that means 'to gush.'"

Gafencu's witness in prison brought many to Christ.  And until the day he died, he refused to say one bad word against those who caused him pain.

FURTHER:  Does an enemy deserve to be honored?  Perhaps it is difficult to think along those lines.  We can learn, however, from the persecuted church that God can use even our enemies to bring us closer to God.  In that sense, we can honor the role our enemies play in our lives.  If we revile our enemies, we may be showing contempt for God's greater plan.  If you are busy cursing your enemies for the way they treat you, stop and think why God has allowed the situation in your life.  Are you making it easier or harder for God to teach you something through this?  If so, you'll surely face it again until you learn.

A moment of consideration:  "Mum's the word."  But in God's Word, Jesus Christ brought new meaning and depth to this phrase.  Early American spirituals noted that Christ "never said a mumblin' word."  Matthew, the disciple and gospel writer noted, "But Jesus remained silent.  And the high priest said to him, 'I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.'" (Matthew 26:63)  Despite his suffering, Valeriu likewise never said anything negative to or about his jailers, et al.  How might we respond to persecutors and persecution?  We should imitate or emulate Christ.  He was reticent at times during his trial; we, too, might refrain from castigation of our persecutors like Mr. Gafencu, and consider why God has allowed this suffering in our lives. (Lamentations 3:38-39)

The Scriptures repeatedly ask that we believers in the Christ emulate Him:  "Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted." (Hebrews 12:3)  The apostle Paul, in writing to the church in Ephesus, rallied the church, saying "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Ephesians 5:1-2)  Paul also prompted the church members in Corinth, saying "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ." (1 Corinthians 11:1)

As global power brokers and leaders more and more impose their ill-intended plans for the globe's inhabitants, citizens of all countries--feeling the hurtful impact on our lives, may ask why God would allow this situation in our lives.  It is good to remember the words of Lamentations, in this regard:  "Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?  Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins?" (Lamentations 3:38-39)  The apostle Peter rightly told his readers, that "this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.  For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure?  But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.  For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps." (1 Peter 2:19-21)

Continuing with this theme, the question arises, why should one suffering justly complain, man or woman, about the punishment of their sins?  Romans 3:23 tells that we have each sinned and fallen [woefully] short of God's glory.  But if we suffer unjustly, Peter said it is a gracious thing.  Indeed, afflictions may well be blessings in disguise. The writer of the book of Job suggests that "you are fortunate when God corrects you, so don't complain when God All-Powerful punishes you." (Job 5:17)  And he continued, saying "God knows me.  He is testing me and will see that I am as pure as gold." (Job 23:10)  The Psalmist concurred and added that, "Before I suffered, I did many wrong things.  But now I carefully obey everything You say." (Psalm 119:67)  Remember, you are children of God, and He speaks words of comfort to you.  Let us not forget these words:  "My child, don't think the Lord's discipline is worth nothing, and don't stop trying when He corrects you." [my emphasis] (Hebrews 12:5)

During the Watergate scandal, some people regarded it as a compliment to be on Nixon’s "enemies list.”  They took it as a credit to them that people in the administration opposed them.  In the same way, if you have enemies because of your righteousness, it will be a credit to you.  You should be glad that you have that kind of enemies, and that they are persecuting you, because it means that you are not doing what they do and instead are doing what unrighteous men hate.

Yes, we are blessed, according to the Lord's truth in the gospel of Matthew. (Matthew 5:11-12)  As happened to the Church in Smyrna (Revelation 2:10), we too may be thrown by the devil into prison or into another precarious situation, that we may be tested.  In these dire circumstances, we are called to be faithful, no matter the cost to us.  Emulating Christ, and learning from Mr. Gafencu in Romania, we may be wise in not saying anything, or not saying anything against our opposers.  In the midst of suffering, if we are sore put to remain silent, and feel we may need to say something, ask God to give you the words to say.  Luke 12:11-12 guides us in what to say if we must speak, asserting "When men bring you into the synagogues before the leaders and other important men, don’t worry about what you will say. The Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say."  Ask the Holy Spirit to likewise let us know when not to complain or speak our hurtful thoughts.

Peter explained to his readers and to us, that we should not be surprised by afflictions:  "Do not be surprised by what you are going through." (1 Peter 4:12)  Peter also clarified for them, that "these troubles test your faith and prove that it is pure.  And such faith is worth more than gold.  Gold can be proved to be pure by fire, but gold will ruin.  When your faith is proven to be pure, the result will be praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ comes. (1 Peter 1:7)  Afflictions may be difficult to bear, but we do not lose heart because of them.  We don't enjoy discipline when we get it.  It is painful.  But later, after we have learned our lesson from it, we will enjoy peace that comes from doing what is right." (Hebrews 12:11)  And as the apostle Paul remarked, "Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison..." (2 Corinthians 4:16-17)  Let us, then, look toward our inner renewal and consider worthily responding without complaint to our opposers’ misdeeds.  Valeriu Gafencu encourages each of us:  "Beams of holiness gushing from us will destroy the evil."