“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.”
The Gospel of Jesus is beautiful. It’s a new way. A new life. One where, at baptism we renounce sin and its ways and chose Jesus and His ways. “To walk in newness of life.” To prepare us to dwell in fellowship with God forever.
That new way is different from the rest of the world. Our renunciation of sin and its ways means that we renounce the way of life that many of our co-workers, long time friends, and family are presently living.
We don’t judge anyone for this, but we are called to both live this new life (in our weakness and by His ability) and invite those who are not, to join us. Because it isn’t about us or them, it’s about Jesus and joining His coming kingdom.
However, this creates a problem.
This new way makes us lights in our world. Light is powerful because it exposes what’s hidden in darkness. Many of those in our world do not want to see what is exposed by this light.
An easy example: The very fact that homosexuality is an objective sin in scripture causes a demand by society that we redefine this sin. Because the exposing of their lifestyles and even identities as sin feels hateful, feels like marginalization. When it’s meant to be an invitation. An invitation to turn and discover a new lifestyle, a new identity free from shame and future destruction.
This makes persecution inevitable.
The Gospel becomes divisive to a world determined to see its way as better than God’s way.
The Gospel is not “the good are in and the bad are out”. Instead it’s “the humble are in and the proud are out”. Sin isn’t a moral set of laws so much as it’s a choosing our ways and refusing His.
The pride of sin rages against God. It demands validation of its own way. We as believers can’t apologize for God and His ways. Instead we must be people who walk in them. But we don’t walk in them in pride and arrogance, as some have. We walk in God’s ways in gentleness and humility. In the same way Jesus was willing to be hated, beaten and crucified to demonstrate His love.
Persecution means we must be willing to do the same thing for the world around us.
Our aim isn’t to win arguments, but to win hearts.
In America, the rage against God and His ways is growing. The cost to win the hearts of those around us may soon be our very lives. We may soon join the ranks of our brothers and sisters in places like China, Nigeria, and India who are regularly losing their lives for our faith. However their martyrdom has left behind a beautiful testimony of love that has inspired hundreds of thousands to follow them in surrendering their lives to Jesus and His ways.
While martyrdom is probably not immediately around the corner, the possibility begs a question: What are you willing to give up to love Jesus and follow in His ways? Are you willing to be hated?
Jesus not only promises that we’ll be hated, He calls us “Blessed” when it does come.
“He is no fool, to give up what he can’t keep, to gain what he can’t lose.” - Jim Elliot
Jesus, our lives are yours.