I was recently watching a tv show that follows community college football players who have lots of talent, but somehow got overlooked. It is a true, unscripted story that has me hooked. One of the main characters is a young man named Dion. Dion has been through a lot of hardship in his life. His father was abusive, he got kicked out of his home at age 17, he can barely afford college tuition, and spends much of the year living out of his car and sleeping on friend’s couches because he cannot afford rent. As the show goes on, viewers see Dion’s struggle with anxiety and panic attacks, manifesting itself in horrible chest pain. In an interview with the camera crew, Dion opens up about the ways his father abused him. He said it included beating him with belts, shaving his head, forcing him to dress up in girl’s clothes and go to school, and eventually forcing him to quit high school football. In the interview, Dion readily admits that he deserved punishment for his actions, but his father took it way too far, constantly seeking to humiliate him as punishment. It is a heartbreaking story, but what stuck out to me was Dion’s willingness to admit that he did deserve punishment for his actions. There are not many young men mature enough to realize that there are actions that deserve punishment and consequences. Frankly, there are many adults that run from the consequences of their actions.
In Matthew 5:10, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It is natural to think, “Blessed are those who are persecuted? How is that a blessing?” However, Jesus, as He does so often, reverses natural thinking and calls His followers to a Kingdom mindset. It is important that Christians understand the difference between punishment and persecution. A punishment or consequence is deserved for actions carried out. Persecution is not deserved. Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” Righteousness! It is the opposite of an action that deserves punishment. It does not make sense to go through hardship because of righteousness.
I want to remind you what Jesus endured. For us, He experienced mocking, scourging (flogging), a crown of thorns, being spit on, carrying his own cross (literally), and ultimately death on a cross. For what? His righteousness. His perfect life was without sin. Jesus did not deserve any of it, yet He allowed Himself to endure it.
If you find yourself being persecuted, mocked, being called out, or put on a pedestal for your faith in Jesus Christ, look at His perfect example of suffering persecution. What you are enduring, Jesus knows what it is like and empathizes with you. He is with you in your persecution!
Today, take ten minutes and read Mark chapter 15. Consider what Christ endured for your sake and allow Him to comfort you in your suffering.