It is no secret that throughout all the persecution account in church history, the true believers’ first response to their persecutors was one of goodwill, not vindictiveness.
As strong and unyielding the martyrs were during trial, so calm and kind they were at their execution. Stories abound of a kind greeting to those come to mock them to their death, of a gentle request to the executor for a swift death, of a silent answer to a verbal attack from the crowd. The only raised voice among the martyrs was the voice of prayer that rose above the clamour of the event, or the voice of preaching offering forgiveness of sins to all who will follow the same Lord. In the most intense time of testing, Christians shine the brightest (Acts 7:60). This is something that our Lord Jesus Himself modelled in His unjust trial and subsequent execution (Luke 23:34).
But this is also something that lies at the very heart of Christian teaching. In the Proverbs-like wisdom for Christian living that we find in Romans 12, we read this about responding to persecutors.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.Romans 12:14 (ESV)
Scripture abounds with this instruction. Later in the same chapter, Romans 12:21 gives the principle of overcoming evil with good. In Luke 6:27-33 Jesus raises the standard of common kindness to others to include those who persecute us. 1 Peter 2:21-23 calls us to follow in our Saviour’s steps when we suffer persecution similar to His. Matthew 5:44 commands love and prayer to be our first two responses to persecutors.
Commit Romans 12:14 to memory long before persecution comes, so your first response is Christ-like. Learn to care for the lost – especially those proving it so clearly in their hatred of Christ and those who have been saved by Him. Pray for those who mock the stand in life that you take because you are a Christian. The Lord saved the persecutor Saul and turned him into the Apostle Paul. Do not neglect to bless, and not curse, those who mistreat you because of your faith.