October 30, 2020
“All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things.”
Here in the United States, persecution is a concept we understand, yet it is a non-value. On the contrary, Jesus sets the persecution of his followers as one of the highest values in his kingdom. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:10).
To follow Jesus means the inevitability of persecution. So why aren’t we persecuted in the United States? Could it be because we have established a form of Christianity that doesn’t warrant being persecuted? We live in a value system that most highly prizes comfort. Anything that disturbs our comfort and security must be put down. Is it any wonder that we react to the persecution of Christians in other parts of the world by thinking we should somehow stop it—effectively trying to make it a non-value for them too?
Notice what Jesus doesn’t say. He does not say that when we are persecuted he will intervene or make sure someone puts a stop to it. No, he says when you are persecuted you are blessed in the kingdom of God. Really, he’s telling us we should expect it and not be surprised when it happens. So does Jesus want us to sit by idly while our brothers and sisters are being torn to shreds for their faith in him? I think rather than coming to their defense, he would have us come to their side. At least I can say that’s what it looks like he plans to do.
“I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them.”
So is persecution something we should seek out? Heavens no. We should probably be asking the question, Why is persecution not seeking us out? I think it’s because we are mostly asleep to what the New Testament considers Christianity.
Awakening is coming, and it will be glorious; however, with it will come persecution. Count on it. It’s why Jesus instructs us to count the cost, prepare for it, and not be surprised.
I know this may sound harsh. Go back and read today’s text. It is harsh.
Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who endured our persecution all the way to the cross. Thank you for his incredible prayer in the face of persecution, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing” (Mark 11:25). Thank you for this gracious warning he gives us and even more for his promised presence in the midst of such trials. Come, Holy Spirit, and increase our courage. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
1. Why aren’t we being persecuted for our faith?
2. Why do we feel burdened to eradicate persecution of Christians, as though that were Jesus’ instruction to us?
3. What would it mean for you to prepare for persecution?
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