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A Godly Instruction

Persecution is part and parcel of the Christian life. From the catacombs to modern academia, Christians have suffered everything from calumny to death for their faith. Christopher Check lays out the persecution—and justice—experienced by Christians under the Roman Empire. Increasingly, Christians around the world are facing martyrdom. Even in the West, discrimination against Christians is moving from the fringes of the legal system to its heart. And then there are the cases where Christians suffer at the hands of other Christians and even the institutional Church. This was the case with Bl. John Henry Newman, who left behind the comfort of the Anglican church only to be greeted with jealousy and suspicion by the Catholics who should have welcomed him. I have little wisdom to offer in the face of any of these kinds of persecution, so I’ll step aside and leave that to the wise:

Bear no malice or evil will to any man living. For either the man is good or wicked. If he is good and I hate him, then I am wicked.

If he is wicked, either he will amend and die good and go to God, or live wickedly and die wickedly and go to the devil. And then let me remember that if he be saved, he will not fail (if I am saved too, as I trust to be) to love me very heartily, and I shall then in like manner love him.

And why should I now, then, hate one for this while who shall hereafter love me forevermore, and why should I be now, then, an enemy to him with whom I shall in time be coupled in eternal friendship? And on the other side, if he will continue to be wicked and be damned, then is there such outrageous eternal sorrow before him that I may well think myself a deadly cruel wretch if I would not now rather pity his pain than malign his person. If one would say that we may with good conscience wish an evil man harm lest he should do harm to other folk who are innocent and good, I will not now dispute upon that point, for that root has more branches to be well weighed and considered than I can now conveniently write (having no other pen than a coal). But truly will I give counsel to every good friend of mine that unless he be put in such a position as to punish a man in his charge by reason of his office, he should leave the desire of punishing to God and to such other folk who are so grounded in charity and so fast cleaved to God that no secretly malicious or cruel affection can creep in and undermine them under the cloak of a just and a virtuous zeal. But let us that are no better than men of a mean sort ever pray for such merciful amendment in other folk as our own conscience shows us that we have need of in ourselves.

That passage was written by St. Thomas More in 1534, while he was in the Tower of London awaiting execution. You can find it in The Sadness of Christ and Final Prayers by Dr. Gerard Wegemer, to whom I am eternally grateful for introducing—plunging me headlong into, rather—St. Thomas. And for his many other kindnesses.
May we all make merry together in heaven forever.

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