When there is a hard word spoken do not notice it; or if you must hear it, forget it as quickly as ever you can. Love others all the more the less they love you: repay their enmity with love. Heap coals of fire upon them by making no return to a hard speech except by another deed of kindness. Very seldom defend yourself: it is a waste of breath, and casting pearls before swine.
Among Lions, sermon by Charles Spurgeon
Love others all the more the less they love you. This doesn’t feel like the way of the world. It didn’t when I was a kid and it’s gotten even more, unlike the world. Enmity today is cyclical. Both sides spew lies about each other, both sides slander and demonize. But, Christian, we are called to repay enmity with love. We are called to break from the circle. Because often a response other than love is a “waste of breath”. Those with hate in their hearts cannot hear. They have already drawn their conclusions because they are being drawn to their conclusions, like pawns in a game. So love them. They may shout back. They may still swing their flimsy swords. But love them.
The anvil is struck by the hammer, and the anvil never strikes in return, and yet the anvil wears the hammer out. Patience baffles fury and vanquishes malice.
Something that smacks me frequently is that the reason I am called to patience, mercy, and grace for those that raise spears against me is that when I raised my spear against God, he showed patience, mercy, and grace for me. In high school, I raged against His people. I didn’t believe the Bible to be true. I argued for hours with Christians. And they showed great patience with my curiosity, my arrogance, my strong-headedness. Why? Because God was doing His thing in His time. And that time came for me in college when I heard His voice: read Genesis. And so, after a bit of protest, I consumed His Word. I learned. And all those arguments came back and what should have appeared as pearls before swine all those times were all sowing to the moment when God knocked.
Christian, have patience. Slow your heart and remember your Savior. He forgave you. You did nothing for that forgiveness. You couldn’t. You were but a slave to sin. You were unforgivable by all worldly terms. But He went to the cross for you nonetheless. Be patient.
God will not quench the fire of persecution, for it consumes our dross, but he will moderate its power so that not a grain of pure metal shall be lost. The lions are chained, dear friend; they can go no farther than God permits.
God permits. No one acts of their own will. Not truly. Your God has a plan, dear Christian. And that plan is good. For some, you will be on the run until you are called Home. For others, it will come in waves. But this is to plan. The lions are only permitted to do that which God permits. Trust your Lord.
In this country the most they can do, as a rule, is to howl, they cannot bite; and howling does not break bones; why, then, be afraid? […] Talking will not hurt you. Harden your spirit against it, and bear it gallantly. Go and tell your Lord of it if your heart fails you; and then go forward[…] The lions can roar, but they cannot rend— fear them not.
Recollect here that Spurgeon is not speaking in the figurative, the metaphorical. He is speaking in the context of London in 1879. As of that time, the drunkards could do no more than howl. They were bound by law. This is not meant figuratively in that “during the age of the Church, the lions are chained and can only howl,” as he acknowledged earlier that the old howl of “Christians to the lions” would return to the streets of London. Slander is one thing, but now Christians are being arrested in London for praying silently on the street. Now Christian students are being arrested from Canadian Catholic schools for not worshipping gods of wood and stone. There is a difference here. But even so, the lions are only permitted that which God permits. God permitted Paul to be in prison. He had a plan.
Christian, if your heart is hurting take it to Him. Pour it out. Cast your burdens. And then move forward. That’s not to say that is easy. For some it is. For others, it is not. I can say that I continue to struggle here. But bury yourself in His Word. Get closer to Him. He has you.
[W]hen your soul is among lions, there is another lion there as well as the lions that you can see. […] If your faith be as it should be, it will be a great joy to you to know that he is always with you, that he is always near you. If he is ever absent from others of his servants, he is never away from his persecuted servants.
Flimsy swords and dragons. Your Lord is with you. Feel His warm breath. Feel His peace. If He is not afraid, why would you be? Take a big deep breath.
There can be comfort among the lions. That comfort comes from God and His people. Yes, there will be gnashing teeth. Yes, there will be howls that shake you to your core. Go forward, good Christian, and love. And the less they love you, love them all the more. Baffle the lions.