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The Word in Your World
“Our brothers and sisters, the same things happened to you that happened to the churches of God in Judaea, to the people there who belong to Christ Jesus. You suffered the same persecutions from your own people that they suffered from the Jews”.
1 Thess 2:14 GNB
In many parts of the world today there is a fair measure of religious tolerance. But not everywhere. In the New Testament after Pentecost there was severe opposition to the Christian religion – in the land of its birth and elsewhere. The message the apostles preached was seen as opposition to, and criticism of, the faith of the synagogue. Yet Jesus was a practising Jew all his days. Attacks on the apostles took place in Jerusalem and they spread out to Judaea and to Samaria (which was northern Israel). The effect of the persecution in Jerusalem was that the apostles took the message of Jesus to the surrounding territories which means that by persecuting the Christian church the local authorities helped to spread the faith they were opposing.
When Paul and the other apostles travelled to Gentile countries they always went and preached first in the synagogues, where converted Gentiles usually believed the message of Jesus. It often led to violence and persecution. The Christian and Jewish faiths were rivals for the support of the Gentiles who had been converted to Judaism. In Thessalonica some of the Jews gathered a mob to attack Paul and Silas. They caused harm to the new Christians who had responded to the message of Christ (see the story in Acts 17:1-9).
If you enjoy religious freedom in your country be grateful to God and respect the freedom of others. If you don’t, pray for courage and constancy and respect the choice others have made.
Lord, help all nations of the world to be tolerant of all faiths.
PRAYER OF INTERCESSION
Lord, make the message of Advent and Christmas plain and meaningful to all your believers as they gather to worship you today. Help them to rejoice in the great hymns of Christmas and to sing them with depth and feeling. Let the song go round the earth. I ask it in Christ’s name. AMEN
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