People Are Watching You Do The Next Right Thing.
I needed a massage.
Ok, let me correct that sentence: I wanted a massage. Somehow it seemed like just the comfort I needed to give me the “umph” to get through yet another week of pandemic decision- and opinion-fatigue. But I’d travelled outside of my state and was kindly denied when I called to schedule with my favorite therapist.
My strong sense of having “rights” rose up within me. I had to get out the Sword of God’s Spirit to beat it back or I was going to spend the day bitter and angry rather than a conduit of God’s love and peace.
Why had my emotions escalated so quickly?
- I didn’t feel welcomed.
- I didn’t feel accepted.
- My needs/wants were marginalized.
- I was denied comfort.
There’s a lot of that going around these days. Christians don’t feel welcomed or accepted. We are experiencing marginalization. And—Christ-follower or not—people around the globe are being denied many comforts. The privileged position that our Christian faith and values once enjoyed in our culture is disappearing. And that’s worthy of conversation about how to respond.
But I have found myself wondering recently if we’re sometimes conflating loss of privilege with persecution. That’s something I faithfully want to avoid. There are simply too many believers in our broken world experiencing true and horrific persecution for me to cheapen it with words and actions unworthy of their faith-fueled witness.
What is persecution?
I opened my Bible to the words Jesus spoke in his Sermon on the Mount to explore my thoughts. There I discovered something I’d not seen before.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Jesus seems to make it clear that not all suffering is persecution. Not all is worthy of being blessed. There are qualifiers. It seems true persecution requires these two ingredients:
- Our righteous behavior
- Our unashamed declaration of His name
When we suffer for doing righteous things in the name of Jesus, that’s persecution. When we suffer for doing (or not doing) things we enjoy, that’s losing privilege. There’s a difference.
What should our response to persecution be?
I already had my finger in Matthew 5, so I kept reading. Here’s what Jesus said our response should be when we do face true persecution.
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Rejoice? Be glad?
That’s a little hard for me. My “sense of rights” is going to have a hard time letting me naturally revert to rejoicing and gladness...whether I’m truly persecuted or just losing privilege.
I find myself wondering if my own response to everything going on in our nation is the right one? What if it’s simpler, quieter, humbler than anything we’re seeing and experiencing among believers right now?
I don’t claim to know all the answers to how Christians should be responding to things right now. Please don’t send me hate mail or feel you need to write to mention all the disclaimers I’m obviously not including on this painfully complex matter. I just want to share what the Lord is teaching me as I consider my role in all of this: I need to grow in my desire to live righteously.
What is righteousness?
As much as we’d like to overwork the word righteousness, I think it’s pretty simple: you do the next right thing. In good times and bad, God has called me to righteousness.
Life Lesson #2 from Ruth: Do the next right thing.
Ruth was a righteous woman. In a time and day when the world was ripe with trouble, she demonstrates a gentle and quiet spirit poised to serve and obey even if her comforts and rights were discharged by doing the next right thing. No one would have blamed her for turning her back on her mother-in-law to pursue comfort the way her sister-in-law did. But Ruth chooses commitment instead of comfort. She stays with her grieving mother-in-law.
But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”
This was an act of righteousness. A simple, quiet act of love. The book of Ruth outlines many of her simple choices to do the next right thing.
- Walking a lonely road with her widowed mother-in-law. (Ruth 1:16,17)
- Gardening in the heat of the day to feed her family (Ruth 2:3)
- Seeking and applying wisdom for hard decisions about relationships (Ruth 3:1-5)
- Trusting God when facing strange customs and traditions (Ruth 3:18-4:1)
These simple righteous choices poised her to be honored by God as a great grandmother in the lineage of Jesus Christ.
Do I make simple, quiet, righteous choices even when my life is riddled with pain and discomfort?
True Christian persecution is coming to America. Anyone who does not see that would be in great denial. I don’t question that.
I just wonder whether we’re ready for it.
Isn’t our reactive response to loss of privilege revealing that our hearts aren’t ready to “rejoice” and “be glad” when and if we face true persecution? And will it be true persecution if we aren’t maintaining hearts that choose righteous actions and words?
- I want to grow in my ability to “do the next right thing.”
- I want to build up my courage to speak boldly the name of Jesus Christ.
And I don’t want to do one without the other, lest I discredit my righteous and holy Savior.
What’s righteous living look like in 2021?
Here are some things it might include.
- Helping your kids through another day of remote learning.
- Taking food to a family who is quarantining.
- Staying home if you have symptoms of COVID-19.
- Praying for a president you may or may not have voted for.
- Sharing your opinions with love and respect.
- Giving a soft answer to the massage receptionist who can’t schedule you. 😳
These are righteous acts. No one else may ever see them other than your children.
Let me rephrase that: your children will see your righteous acts and learn far more from them than they will ever learn from your lectures to live well.
In my first article in the Life Lessons from Ruth series, I mentioned that grieving some of my losses this year might be the beginning of something good. Crying over my losses—healthy as that is—would be a selfish and incomplete act if I did not also embrace this Truth from God’s Word.
My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees.
Whether it’s true persecution or just a simple denial of my privileges, I’m pretty sure that what’s happening in our world right now is good for me.
And for you.
And even for our daughters.
Ready to go deeper into the book of Ruth? Here are some tools for you and your daughter!
For Women and Teens!
Do you want to dive deeper into the book of Ruth? Revive Our Hearts has some great tools for you and the teenager in your life!
Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth once broadcast an in-depth podcast series on Ruth to coincide with the release of an ALL-NEW Women of the Bible study on Ruth featuring a familiar True Girl teacher: Erin Davis.
Here’s a sneak peak of that conversational and contemporary six-week study.
This six-week study with Scripture memory, daily study, and group discussion questions is ideal for both individual and group study.
Do you know a tween girl who might like to go deeper in the story of Ruth? True Girl has released an all-new study on the book of Ruth for girls ages 8–12. Ruth: Becoming a Girl of Loyalty. Together, you’ll explore topics like true friendship, finding joy in hard times, dealing with mean people, and seeing God in painful circumstances.
True Girl Bible Studies feature important women in the Bible so girls can learn from their example. We created them to help moms—and grandmoms—teach their daughters and granddaughters how to study God’s Word.