Persecuted for Christ
“Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you, and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake” (Mt 5.10–11).
Persecution is one of those things that has never made sense to me. Beginning with the way Jesus was treated. What did He ever do, or say to anyone that wasn’t for their good? Or in their best interest? His words were life and peace, He blessed and healed and modeled goodness and forgiveness. He welcomed everyone. He was unique, and whether or not you realized at the time that He was God incarnate, the way He lived and the thousands of people He helped, testified to the fact that He was good. He meant no harm. And many people hated Him for it.
He was mocked, beaten, falsely accused, betrayed and murdered.
And I begin to realize how desperately fallen and mean our world, His creation, has become.
Christian people are generally the most wonderful people in the world. They live as best they can, in obedience to the things Jesus taught, loving God and loving their neighbor and doing no harm. Why, then, are they nearly always cast in such a negative light? Ridiculed and mocked. In many countries, physically tortured for their faith.
Like Jesus, His followers seem to pose some kind of threat, yet they are not forcing anyone to do anything, they simply love and serve. But the perception is that they want to change you, if you don’t fit into their mold you must change – which isn’t the message at all. Christians are just calling a burdened world to find rest in Christ, pointing to Jesus as the only One who can heal your hurts, give you peace, offer you safety and acceptance. Christians don’t want to change you, they want to help you.
But the pressure of the world, the fallen ‘mob’ mentality, the persuasion of the devil, and the sheer selfishness of the fallen human heart, rises up and lashes out, offended by any inference of genuine help from ‘above’. So prayer must go, scripture must go, sacraments must go – and by extension, those who follow these archaic ways must also go.
Jesus said, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecute Me, they will persecute you; if they have kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all this they will do to you on My account, because they do not know Him who sent Me’” (John 15:20–21).
People have forgotten God. The reality of a loving, sovereign Creator has slowly been purged from the language of the irreligious world. This ages-old Truth is eroded and nearly gone. Truth is an interesting thing. People want it to be situational and personal, ‘my truth,’ ‘my reality’. This is truth with a small ‘t’, it is more accurately the planting of a banner of selfishness and free will. This isn’t truth, real truth is objective, it is black and white, and it is only found in Christ Jesus, for He is the Truth, capital ‘T’. And the fallen world hates that reality, because darkness is illuminated by the light of Truth.
Again, Christ followers don’t want to offend anyone, they are just saying there is a standard, and it’s really good! It’s love and grace and forgiveness and it’s Jesus, and it’s yours! It’s done, it’s free! Come and see!
But the aching, fallen world, the lying devil and his minions, and our deep-seeded selfish pride, will never go easily. And it is a world-wide and ongoing truth, a prediction from Jesus Himself here in the beatitudes, that even though it makes no sense to simpletons like myself, persecution is with us for the long haul. For “indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
The Christian response? Just follow Jesus and forgive. Satan has blinded their eyes and they can’t see. Forgive them, pray for them, love them. They are sheep without a shepherd and need the same thing I need every day, the peace of Christ ruling my heart and life.
(Photo by Khaled al-Hariri)