Day 13: “Persecution” 08.17.18
Matthew 5:10-12 (NIV) 10 “ Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
A quick reading of verses 10 through 12 raises a question. Namely, why would anyone persecute the kind of person who lives like the man or woman described in verses 1 through 9? Who could be critical of a person who is:
Mournful about our troubled world?
Meek and humble as they relate to others?
Hungry and thirsty for righteousness?
Filled with a pure heart?
Such a person sounds like your greatest possible neighbor! We should pray to live next door to such a one as this. So…why would they be persecuted and described in evil ways? That all depends on how outspoken they are about their relationship with Christ. If a modern person is saved but says very little, no one cares. But today’s society is remarkably like first century Israel. In that day, few people cared if you said you believed in Jesus. However, persecution began when you said you believed ONLY IN JESUS!
If you believed in the claim made by our Lord in John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life NO ONE COMES to the father except through me…” you just declared those who do not believe are eternally lost. AND…because you believe in Jesus and have received the Holy Spirit, you share God’s values.
So today, speak out about gay marriage or killing the unborn and other Biblical truths and you will deeply irritate the culture at large.
Now in the first century genuine “persecution” was more than just discrimination against the Christian florist or baker. It could very well cost you your life. Why? Because the Romans thought your allegiance was to Christ not Caesar, and the Jews thought you were worshipping a dead prophet and they did not want you in the synagogue.
We do not live in an age of persecution the way the ancients did. But history has repeated itself regularly. There have been martyrs throughout the centuries. So “persecution” (the New Testament Greek word was “de-oko” meaning to feel afraid of those who might harm you.) Why might they hate you? Well…. we must not be Christians who are hated because we are weird for Jesus. Some claiming to be disciples of Christ are obnoxious and tiresome and simply goofy. Can you imagine picketing a soldier’s funeral because he or she was gay? Can you imagine carrying signs that are cruel and condescending to non-believers? Really? There are times when I understand why some non-believers think all Christians are hopelessly off-putting.
If we are persecuted it must be because non-believers HATE CHRIST IN US! Paul puts it this way:
2 Corinthians 2:14-16 (NIV) 14 “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. 15 For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?”
To the person who hates Christ and his Gospel, we smell of intolerance and condescension and arrogance and stupidity. They do not understand the Gospel is about salvation by faith. Rather, they think (some of them) that WE THINK WE ARE GOING TO HEAVEN BECAUSE WE BELIEVE WE HAVE EARNED IT AND ARE SPECIAL. And they see us worshipping and speaking out the values of Jesus and it is annoying. It stinks in their nostrils! But to the true disciples, we are the pleasant aroma of life.
In Paul’s age, persecution was to be expected. It was normative. In fact, here is what he said to the young pastor named Timothy:
2 Timothy 3:10-12 (NIV) 10 “ You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings–what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…”
Shorthand on all of this seems to be: if Christ is truly at work in you, oddly enough godless people will despise you…unless you are just “nice” and make no connection to Jesus. Frankly, very few Christians are persecuted in America because their witness is so muted that they don’t irritate unbelievers.
In any case, Jesus said we should rejoice if we get roughed up for our faith! There is a reward waiting in Heaven. Why? Because unbelievers persecuted the prophets sent by God to speak for him. Our conclusion: every Christian, in some way and on some level, is expected to be a prophet! We should live and act and speak for God carefully. Finally, consider:
Colossians 3:12 (NIV) “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
Paul understood that despite persecution, we should be filled with the Holy Spirit. Next: after he promised persecution, the Lord Jesus Christ spoke of how we should see ourselves. As salt and light.
Peace. Pastor Alberta