In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen.… — 2 Corinthians 11:26
Often atheists say, “Religion is an evil force. It is the main source of hatred and war in the world.” And if we carefully examine the regional conflicts in the world today, we would have to admit there is a certain degree of truth to that accusation. A large number of the wars that have been fought through the centuries were connected to differing religions, as is much of the hate that exists in the world today.
But the majority of what is done in the name of religion has nothing to do with God. First John 4:8 declares that “…God is love.” As the Source of love, God would never initiate the wars, the hatred, the bloodshed, or the conflicts that are so often performed in the name of religion. These various conflicts may be done in the name of religion, but they have nothing to do with God, for God is a Restorer, Redeemer, Savior, and Deliverer, and there is no darkness in Him at all.
From the very beginning of time, religion without God has proved to be disastrous. That’s why I say that to a certain degree, atheists are correct when they assert that religion is the source of mankind’s problems. It was even the religious leaders of Jesus’ day who failed to recognize that He was God’s Son and demanded that He be crucified on a Cross. By studying the Gospels, you will see that the religious leaders of Jesus’ time were very mean, callous, cruel, malicious, spiteful, and malevolent.
The biggest enemies to the Gospel during the past two thousand years have been religious leaders. Acting in a spirit of fear, they attempt to stamp out any move of God that is not under their control. This has always been and is still the case. Religion will always be the biggest opponent to the declaration of the Gospel.
Certainly during Paul’s ministry this was true. The greatest opponents to his ministry were the religious Jews who followed him, harassed him, stirred up trouble for him, and even tried to kill him. This is why Paul tells us that he was “…in perils by mine own countrymen…” (2 Corinthians 11:26).
In Perils by Mine Own Countrymen
Now for the third time in this chapter, the apostle Paul uses the word “perils” (from the Greek word kindunos, meaning extremely dangerous). The phrase “mine own countrymen” comes from the Greek word genos. The word genos is where we get the word “genes.”
This word would only be used to denote someone with whom one shares a common ancestry. Paul is referring to the Jewish people who constantly opposed him everywhere he went. They opposed him in Salamis (Acts 13:8), Antioch Pisidia (Acts 13:45,50), Iconium (Acts 14:2), Lystra (Acts 14:19), Thessalonica (Acts 17:5-9), Berea (Acts 17:13), Corinth (Acts 18:12-16), and so on.
Paul tells us that what he faced from his own natural kinsmen was extremely dangerous. They persecuted and hunted him down everywhere he went. They were the primary tools Satan used to pester Paul. Angry, unbelieving Jews were the thorn in Paul’s flesh that he later wrote about in Second Corinthians 12:7. These were the messengers of Satan who were sent to constantly buffet him.
But in spite of the endless persecution of these religious Jews, the apostle Paul pressed onward toward the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. He wasn’t going to let any group of angry religious people keep him from doing what he was assigned to do. This particular impasse wouldn’t stop him any more than the others had.
Let’s pray that we never demonstrate the nasty attitude so many have paraded before the world in the name of religion. We must never forget that Jesus died for people — even for the religious leaders who hated Him and demanded His death. Like Jesus, we must make it our aim to walk in the love of God just as Jesus did.
If you are being harassed by religious people who don’t understand your stance of faith, don’t get too upset with them. They are operating in the same spirit of religion that has operated since the beginning of time. The devil wants to use them to upset you, steal your joy, make you angry, and get you into the flesh. However, you don’t have to let the enemy get the best of you. Just make the decision to walk in love and to respond to them in the spirit of Jesus.
In Perils by the Heathen
The religious leaders weren’t the only ones the apostle Paul had to face. He tells us that he was also “…in perils by the heathen…” (2 Corinthians 11:26).
The apostle Paul uses the word “perils” for a fourth time in this chapter. Again, it is the word kindunos, denoting something that is extremely dangerous. The word “heathen” is actually the Greek word ethnos. It specifically refers to Gentiles or to anyone not Jewish.
The Gentile world was a strange and curious world. It was filled with wild religious beliefs, customs, and a pagan culture opposed and adverse to the knowledge of a righteous and holy God. The religion of the Gentile world promoted the grossest, most depraved, and most perverted sort of sexuality. Thousands of different gods were worshiped in pagan temples, each with its own particular style of worship. Most of these religious orders involved the use of wine and drugs to induce the worshiper into wild, mindless debauchery as a part of his or her act of “worship” to the gods.
These religions were filled with demons. As the wine, drugs, music, drum-beating, and sexual perversion of temple worship intoxicated those participating in the pagan ceremony, demonic activity became stronger and stronger in the temple. During a moment of such intensity, things could have easily gotten out of control.
At such moments, an act of aggression against Gospel preachers could have freely occurred. This environment was extremely dangerous, especially to Paul and his team as they confronted the powers of darkness and commanded these idol worshipers to repent.
The travels of the apostle Paul took him to some of the world’s most pagan and demonic cities. In fact, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth, and Ephesus are listed among some of the most pagan, demonic cities in the history of mankind! Yet these cities were the places where the Holy Spirit led Paul. They were also where he experienced his most successful periods of ministry.
Going where it is safe and secure is not always what God wants us to do. The Gospel must be taken into every country, every city, and every village in the world. If we go only where it’s comfortable and safe, none of us will ever go very far from where we live right now. Thank God for those who went before us and who pushed the powers of darkness out of the way so we can now know the glorious light of the Gospel!
Paul faced extremely dangerous situations in both the Jewish and Gentile world, but it didn’t stop him from going where God had called him. No danger was so terrifying that he couldn’t conquer it with the power of God. Paul, whom history says was small in stature, was so mighty in the Spirit that he challenged and pushed his way through some of the most wicked, spiritually dark conditions known to man to do exactly what God had asked him to do.
When you allow God to infuse you with His power, you will also become a mighty force for God. The question is, will you determine to take the power and the love of God into every place He leads you to go so others can hear the Good News?
My Prayer for Today
Lord, help me to demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ and to never allow the unkind, cruel spirit of religion to operate in me. Help me also to love those who operate in this mean spirit and to counter their attitude with the love of Jesus Christ. And, Lord, when I am confronted by godless unbelievers, give me the wisdom to demonstrate the love of Jesus to them in a way that will touch their hearts. Both the religious and the irreligious need Jesus, so show me how to be an instrument of life to both types of people when I encounter them along the way.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I will take the Gospel anywhere God tells me to take it! That means I am willing to go to every country, every city, and every village in the world. Nothing — no force, no group, no religion, and no godless, pagan influence — can stop me from going where God has called me. No danger is so terrifying that I can’t conquer it by the power of God. I am mighty in the Spirit and can push my way through the most wicked, spiritually dark conditions using the power and the love of God.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Can you think of anyone you’ve met in the past who was very “religious” but who related to others with a cruel, mean spirit? When you encountered that spirit, were you able to love that person with Jesus’ love, or did you allow him or her to make you angry and get you in the flesh?
2. Has there been a time in your life when you felt surrounded by godless unbelievers who laughed at you and made fun of you because of your faith? How did you respond to that situation? Were you able to love them with Jesus’ love?
3. Have you ever witnessed a time when God’s love melted the heart of such a godless person and that person’s life was changed forever? How long did it take for the love of God to break through the hardness of that individual’s heart?