What motivates good, sincere people to persecute others who differ from them in religious conviction? The opposition can take cruel forms. Wars have been fought over religion. The United States was "conceived" by a desire to escape religious persecution (said Lincoln).
Thank God we don't now throw theological opponents into prison or burn them at the stake, but we malign them, seek to destroy reputations, slam doors against them, misrepresent them. What's back of this strange phenomenon of unrighteous indignation that blazes forth against someone who differs from us in biblical interpretation?
The answer is--our obsession with the Old Covenant. History is clear: those who love the New Covenant NEVER persecute others! Paul himself was a fanatical follower of the Old Covenant who couldn't stand to watch the New Covenant apostles proclaim gospel Good News. He thought their message destroyed his keep-the-law theology. He misunderstood them--their gospel was the only way anyone truly could become a "doer of the law," but he felt he had to "punish them oft in every synagogue, ... and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities" (Acts 26:11). His zeal for the Old Covenant even led to murder. All, supposedly "righteous"! (And highly popular.)
When finally he discovered the New Covenant, he saw something he had never seen before: Ishmael, the son of the Old Covenant Hagar, "persecuted him that was born after the Spirit," that is, Isaac. "Even so it is now," he added (Gal. 4:29). That brought him to his knees--in his frenzy against the apostles he saw he was acting out the role of Ishmael!
"Even so it is now"! Old Covenant obsession is spiritual poison. If it doesn't outright kill your devotion to Jesus and His church, it weakens it so it becomes "lukewarm." Many Christian youth lose their way because they have been taught Old Covenant concepts under the guise of "Christian education" in church or school. Lord, please help our blindness!
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