Are You Persecuted?
This past Sunday, we looked at the last of eight beatitudes that Jesus lists for his disciples in Matthew 5. The beatitudes are meant to display for us the characteristics of those who follow Christ and are citizens of the Kingdom of God. They are qualities that should be exhibited in every believer.
“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” (Matthew 5:10-12).
The fact that Jesus lists persecution as a beatitude and mentions it twice underscores the reality of persecution for every believer. Persecution might look different for each believer. Some may face physical persecution for following Christ while others may experience verbal persecution or being ostracized, discriminated against, or rejected because of their faith. This doesn’t mean that we should be persecuted for our faith at all times. But this does mean that persecution is inevitable and that it is a mark of being a Christian.
So, this leads us to ask: what if we don’t feel any persecution at all for being Christians? The truth is that we shouldn’t be surprised when persecution comes but rather we should be surprised if it never comes to us.
This past week we considered three types of Christians that never face any heat for their faith. So it’s important for us to consider whether we fall into any of these camps.
1) The Bubble Christian—These are the Christians who only associate and spend time with other Christians. They live in a Christian bubble. They work with Christians, go out for meals with Christians, and never take time to get to know their unbelieving neighbors and co-workers. Jesus was clear that his desire for us is that we would be sent into the world and not create a bubble that insulates us from the world (John 17:15-18).
2) The Silent Christian—These are the Christians that keep silent about their faith. They may say that the reason for their silence is they don’t want to cause any disturbances for others but more than likely the truth is that they don’t want to experience any mistreatment or harassment themselves. This kind of silent Christianity is antithetical to biblical Christianity. Jesus told his disciples, “…everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33). Many times, our denial of Christ takes the form of our not speaking up when we have an opportunity to share the gospel or defend our faith.
3) The Blended Christian—These are the Christians whose lifestyles look so much like the rest of the world that no one would ever know they follow Christ and consequently they never face opposition for their faith. This may be the most convicting reason why we never experience persecution. Scripture says that we are not to take part in the unfruitful works of darkness but instead expose them (Ephesians 5:11). We are told to not conform to the world but be transformed by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2). In Genesis 19, we find that Lot has so blended into the world around him that when he wanted to warn his family with a word from God, it seemed to them as if he was joking.
If we are honest, there are many times in life where we find ourselves in one of these three camps. And when we are living in one of these groups, we undercut our effectiveness as a witness for Christ. The point is not that we should desire or pursue persecution, but a lack of opposition from the world may reveal that we aren’t being salt and light in a very dark world. This coming Sunday we will look at Matthew 5:13-16 where Jesus commands his followers to not lose their saltiness and to not hide their light from the world. As we prepare to look at this text, let’s examine our lives and see if we fall into one of these three categories that go against what God desires for us. Let’s pray and ask God to continue to make us salt and light so that some in the world around us may come to give glory to our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).