Nobody likes opposition. Opposition that involves suffering is even worse. Sometimes those that disagree with you will kill you. According to a slideshow on www.opendoors.org, 1 in 9 Christians around the world experience high levels of persecution. We have all heard the headlines: Christians beheaded, churches burned, women and children kidnapped. We live in an unusual place here in the United States of America, but what we have here is deteriorating.
Matthew 5:10-12 (CSB)
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
11 “You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of me. 12 Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Luke 6:22-23 (CSB)
22 Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you, insult you,
and slander your name as evil
because of the Son of Man.
23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy. Take note—your reward is great in heaven, for this is the way their ancestors used to treat the prophets.
What is Christian persecution? It is important we get this right. We all suffer. Is it persecution? It is not persecution when you get caught doing something wrong. It is not persecution when your actions precipitate an unwanted outcome. It is not persecution or hate if someone disagrees with you. Disagreements have become increasingly uncomfortable for us. We have whole sectors of the population (not just the young) who are unable to deal with ideas and people that do not agree with their stance. So, what does this say? It is persecution when we are mistreated because of righteousness. We must be following Christ and doing what He says. To be persecuted as Christians is to be a target solely because of our Christian beliefs and lifestyle. Persecution can involve hate (real hate, not just disagreement), insults, evil behaviors toward you, and slander. These are the thing mentioned here, but we are all familiar with other forms of persecution.
What does Jesus say comes as a result? We are all aware of the results of persecution and are trying to avoid them. No one wants to be killed, kicked out of their home, imprisoned, starved, barred from public life, or silenced by ridicule or legal action. But, aside from these negative things, Jesus says we are blessed. He says the kingdom of heaven comes. He says we should rejoice, that we are in good company. This is one of the things that seems the opposite of what is obvious. But God’s ways are not the world’s ways. We are to see life with an eternal perspective. We seek to live by values that reach into eternity even if they are fatal in this life. We will be with Him forever. We need to seek what He says is true and live by it.
How about you? Are you grumbling about being persecuted when you are not? Are you persecuted, but in despair? Today, ask God to redo your foundation. Be full of His righteousness and be about His business. Let things fall where they may. He is with you. There is a promise of blessing and His kingdom. He will be with you and see you through, even though it might not be in the manner you are seeking.
Fill me with Your righteousness. Make be Your disciple and help me to reflect Your character both in who I am, what I do, and how I allocate my resources. If others surround me, help me to stay firm, keeping my eyes on You, and stay faithful. Help me persevere under whatever comes my way. Give me Your constant presence and fill me with Your joy.