Struggle: “Have you been persecuted for what you believe? Maybe not by death or imprisonment but by unfair harassment, ridicule, or lies? Persecution can undermine one’s sense of security, cause much heartache and pain, and create a hell on earth.” How should I respond to persecution?
Jesus says, ““Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew: 5 9-12
Jesus just finished the Beatitude portion of Sermon on the Mount, by stating that anyone who chooses to follow Him, setting a moral standard for others, will be persecuted. His early Followers were literally persecuted unto death. We may not face death, nonetheless, individuals who choose to follow Jesus should not expect to receive less than what Jesus experienced. He said, they will, “revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” Revile means to attack someone verbally, usually using abusive language. Persecute means to oppress, harass with ill treatment with the intention to injure, grieve, or afflict another person. Speaking evil of someone is done by suggesting, passing along, or bringing on false reports or charges against another person, to focus on their failings, or by depreciating their character to discredit and disesteem them.
The best example of persecution and persecuted is from the story of Saul the persecutor transformed to Paul the persecuted in Acts 9:1-6. As Saul was still “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” he journeyed near Damascus, and “suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”
If our lives bear witness to the presence of Christ in us, we will face persecution. The key here is in understanding not only the act of persecution but being persecuted. Either way Christ is the object. We may feel the act of persecution is against us personally but God said that if we persecute his children we are actually acting against God our Creator and Christ our Savior and Lord. Persecution through harm or harassment in any form is forbidden. However if we are persecuted for Christ sake it is an honor bestowed upon us that we truly belong to Christ.
We are not to set out to be a martyr. However, if we live according to the standard that Jesus explained in the previous verses of Matthew 5 the world will hate us. They hated Jesus. Jesus told his followers one something that I think is the hardest thing to do in our Christian walk. He said that if we are persecuted for righteousness sake, then we should "rejoice." We are not to rejoice in persecution but he said, "Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven" (v.12). Our earthly reward will only last for a season but our heavenly reward will be eternal. The apostle Paul must have been aware of this promise when he wrote, "As it is written: ’No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"’ (1 Cor. 2:9 NIV).
Dear Father, you have told us we would face persecution and if I suffer may it be because of righteousness. But Father help me that I would not say anything or participate in any activity that would bring harm to another person, and ultimately against you. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.