When I have been persecuted, many times it was not because of Jesus, but probably because I didn’t look enough like Jesus to those around me. Nothing worse than a follower of Christ who doesn’t look like Jesus or love the world like he does…
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.
The other day I reflected upon the missionary’s message of being one church worldwide in which we share in the persecution of our brothers and sisters around the world. I have been thinking more about these things, and I realize that when one of the speakers spoke of the blessing of persecution, many of us don’t see it that way. Rarely would you hear a North American say that they are rejoicing because they are under pressure and attack. Most times we try to get out of or around persecution.
In fact, we don’t view persecution as a blessing. Most times, we view persecution as a curse. Let me up, I’ve had enough. What did I do to deserve this? We even go on the attack against our persecutors. We judge them. We slander them. We label them. And particularly more so if they don’t look like us. Unfortunately, we do this oftentimes when they don’t look like us Christians.
I think this is a shame. Actually, I think it is shameful. I’m embarrassed. When I have done this, I have been wrong. Persecution is going to come. And I want to welcome it. And learn from it.
How can Jesus speak of the blessedness of the persecution? What was he thinking? Well, notice that there are two characteristics of the persecution Jesus speaks of. He speaks of us being persecuted for righteousness and because of him. If you are persecuted for righteousness or because of Jesus, Jesus calls you blessed. In fact, he promises you heaven.
As I reflect on my missionary friends who spoke to us recently, I see them suffering persecution because of their commitment to righteousness and because of Jesus. Therefore, they are blessed and have heaven in front of them. They also have the right attitude within their persecution. One of them shared that in their persecution, if they only have five minutes of life left, they are going to use that last five minutes to share Jesus with people around them. Their response to persecution is to throw themselves deeper into surrender and service to God.
I fear that in North America’s last five minutes, we might try to argue with the clock, fight back against the persecutor, or flee from the fire. Our commitment to our own lives may be stronger than our commitment to serving and following Jesus. Just maybe. Maybe not you. Maybe your neighbour? Or maybe you too… and me…
Let me go further. When I think back on some of the times years ago that I was persecuted for my faith, it wasn’t because of righteousness. I was persecuted more for my self-righteousness than for my commitment to righteousness. My ‘righteousness’ at times was focused on what others were doing instead of what I was doing.
Likewise, I was persecuted, not because of Jesus, but probably because I didn’t look enough like Jesus to those around me. Nothing worse than a follower of Christ who doesn’t look like Jesus Christ. Or act like Christ. Or love the world like Jesus. Or serve and surrender to the Father like him.
The persecution that is rewarded in heaven is the persecution in which our commitment to righteousness applied to our own lives and our allegiance to and imitation of Jesus toward the world is offensive to others. I see that more in the church outside my country than my local church. And I hope we can see more of the right persecution around us soon. It would be a good sign of God’s presence and power within us.