It’s been a while since I last wrote as life continues to come at me with uncertainty after uncertainty. But I think I’ve embraced it. Life is full of surprises and unexpected turns, but trust God in the process and everything will be great!
Now, to the matter at hand. I’m going to talk about a word that American Christians tend to, in my opinion, overuse:
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few weeks, we come to the story of Kim Davis, a lady who refused to give out wedding licenses to same sex couples in Kentucky. She was therefore sentenced to jail, but was later released.
The world of social media was split in its judgments. One side called Davis a hero for standing up for her beliefs, the other side called her a religious bigot and attempted to dredge up her past, while a third side said that jail time was justified as she was breaking the law. Oh, I forgot to mention that a fourth side wondered why she didn’t quit or get fired.
Whatever your stance is on the matter (there will be no debate on this here), I want to talk about the definition and reality of persecution. Now, I have to be careful here as I do not want to water down or compromise what persecution really is.
Turn to Matthew 5:10-12. This is shortly after the beginning of Jesus’ three year ministry. He speaks to large crowds and He calls His first disciples. In this passage, He preaches the Sermon on the Mount, starting with the Beatitudes.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure-hearted, the peacemakers.
I want to focus on the last two Beatitudes:
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake…
Persecution in the Greek is διώκω (dioko), meaning to pursue in a hostile manner. It means being forcefully dislocated or relocated on some basis. In this case, Jesus says you are blessed if you are being pursued because of your righteousness (which comes from believing and having a relationship with Him) and it results in you having to forcefully leave your current location.
We see the perfect example of this in the early church of Acts. We see Stephen, one of the first deacons, performing signs and wonders among the people (Acts 6). The religious elite of the day argued with him, but they couldn’t stand against his God-bestowed wisdom. He was put on trial and he gave them an earful, even calling them stiff-necked people who resist the Holy Spirit. They sentenced him to death by stoning.
After this execution, Saul passionately persecuted the church, having men and women who followed The Way dragged off into prison (Acts 8).
**Side note: Notice that there are two types of people who can persecute you:
- Those who hate the name of Christ and will do whatever they can to eliminate any mention of Him.
- The religious elite, who believe that the traditions of men are immeasurably better than a relationship and belief in Jesus Christ.**
Was that the end of the church? Of course not! The people of the church spread the Gospel and preached the Word, even as they were scattered. The church kept growing, and multiplying. Christians have been martyred for their faith. They were put on trial, tortured, whipped, beaten, and killed for believing in the lordship of Christ.
True persecution is when you are forced out of your current location to another location and spreading the Gospel during that time.
Look here, just because persecution is alive and well, that does not mean that you stop sharing the Gospel.
…for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Ah, this is such a refreshing promise from Jesus. If you are persecuted, guess what? You get the kingdom of heaven! That is your inheritance as a son and daughter of God! Let this be an encouragement to you!
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. – Philippians 1:21
Blessed are you when others revile you…
The word “revile” in the Greek language is ὀνειδίζω (oneidizo), meaning reproach, dishonor, or showing disapproval or disappointment. This can come through insults, loss of friends, and threats.
Now notice that being reviled is NOT the same as being persecuted.
Being unfriended or unfollowed on the basis of faith or disagreement. Reviled.
Being ripped apart on social media. Reviled.
Having articles written about you in a negative light. Reviled.
…and persecute you…
Receiving death threats and being forced to move for your faith. That’s persecution.
Someone physically chasing you and possibly giving you a physical beatdown on the basis of your faith. That’s persecution.
Having your church or house burned down or closed on the basis of your faith. That’s also persecution.
Here’s my point. A lot of American Christians got it mixed up. Yes, Christianity is unpopular, but that has always been the case. Christians were persecuted and reviled all the time in the early church, but that caused the church to grow and multiply. When Christianity was recognized through Constantine’s Edict of Milan in 313 AD and therefore stopped being a persecuted religion, that was when Christianity started to become stagnant.
If you look around the world and witness churches being destroyed and Christians being killed by the hands of terrorist organizations like ISIS, you will realize that you are still blessed to be in this nation. Trust me, friend, it’s not as bad as you think it is!
Don’t get me wrong. There’s always the opportunity for Christianity to become truly “persecutable” in America. I just don’t think it’s that bad now.
…and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account…
It’s going to happen. If you’re a Christian and hold on to the Word of God as the authority of your life, you basically have a large target on your back. People will say things about you. It will hurt. It will suck. It will cause you to question yourself. But it is also a mark that you are a disciple of Christ.
If you are living righteously through Christ and no one can dig up any dirt on you, people will make stuff up to put you in a bad light. It’s called slander, libel if it is published. It happened to Stephen (Acts 6:9-14), Naboth (1 Kings 21), and Jesus.
Notice that I said if you are living righteously:
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness (mercy), and to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:8
Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. – 1 Peter 1:12
Here’s my next point, and I’ll draw this from 1 Peter 4:14-16:
If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murder or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.
I’m going to tell you something really quick. If you suffer, are persecuted, and reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed. However, if you suffer because you are an unloving jerk, then you deserve it. End of story.
Folks, being persecuted and being reviled are two different things, but they yield the same result. Both of them, if done for the sake of Christ, will give Christ glory and will remind us that we are not of this world. Most “persecution” in American culture is mainly being reviled if even that.
In essence, don’t be a jerk in the name of Christ.
If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. – John 15:18-19
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven…
This is the promise for those who suffer by other people in the name of Christ. You’ll have a great reward in the next life! Isn’t that awesome? At your lowest point, when Satan and others get you down and it’s hard to keep a smile on your face, know that you have a hope, your story is still being written, and that this world is not our home! Keep preaching and presenting the Gospel, and don’t be a jerk about it!
(the apostles after being beat and charged not to speak in the name of Jesus) Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the themple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. – Acts 5:41-42
Until next time, stay hidden in the shadow of His wings,
Got questions, comments, or concerns? Let me know. Let’s talk.