Matthew 5:11-12 says, “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.” These verses make a statement that is highly contrary to standard human thinking. No one likes to be bullied, feel like an outsider, or be persecuted. However, these verses seem to indicate that we are doing something right when we encounter those situations. These verses are not telling us to go out and be antagonistic, or seek to make as many enemies as possible. No, these are verses of encouragement and endurance.
We live in a corrupt and broken world, a world that despises God and His people. When we live our lives in a God-glorifying and righteous way, we demonstrate Christ through our actions. That godliness and righteousness generate hostility and antagonism from the world. John MacArthur says it like this, “Righteousness is confrontational, and even when it is not preached in as many words, it confronts wickedness by its very contrast.” When we live our lives in a way that points to God, our righteousness rebukes those around us that are living in wickedness and sin. Being rebuked causes tension and conflict within oneself and can lead to people lashing out in anger due to this turmoil. Often times, the target of that lashing out will be none other than the source of their rebuke – you and your righteous actions. That lashing out may look like bullying. It may look like being excluded from plans or conversations. It may look like persecution in the form of lies and rumors against you.
While these things are terrible to endure, persecution is the surest and most tangible evidence of salvation. In 2 Timothy 3:12, it says: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” So you see, when we receive persecution on behalf of the Lord, we can be reassured in the knowledge that we are living a godly life. We can be encouraged that we are not suffering for an unjust cause, nor must we suffer it alone; when we gather together as a family in Christ, we have a unique ability to share these burdens with those around us and assist one another in these struggles. I encourage you to lean on your church family during times of persecution.
Avoiding persecution is easy. It is as simple as mirroring the corrupt world around us and remaining silent about the Gospel. It is easy to fall into the trap of feeling ashamed to take a stand for Christ. It is easy to remain silent and avoid persecution. We all struggle with this; it is human nature to want to be liked. The apostle Peter denies knowing Jesus three times in Luke chapter 22 in order to avoid persecution. I urge you to endure persecution and continue to glorify God with the way you live your life. The Bible tells us our reward in Heaven for doing so will be great.