Read: Matthew 5:1-12
Consider: Commentators generally take what Jesus said about persecution in Matthew 5:10-11 and comment upon them together. This seems appropriate as they both talk about persecution and Matthew 5:11 seems to be a comment (or clarification) added to 5:10. I have kept them separate only because of the emphasis (or reason) for the persecution. In 5:10 the reason given is ‘… because of righteousness’, while in 5:11 it is stated as ‘… because of me’. In the previous post we noted that those who want to live God’s way, in a perverse and twisted world, will stand out from society because of their views and this will make them the focus of persecution and ridicule.
The clarification added by Jesus in Matthew 5:11 tells us that insult, persecution and lies will come about because we bear the name of Jesus. This is exactly what we see in western society today. As secularism increases, Christians are increasingly alienated. The media (i.e. television and films) portray Christianity and Christians as something to poke fun at and ridicule. The way of life that society presents as ‘normal’ is in direct contrast to how Christians choose to live. Christian views are presented as extreme and out of touch with the heartbeat of society. Other parts of the media (i.e. newspapers) sensationalise reports and headlines when they can attach the name ‘Christian’ to someone who has done wrong.
None of this should surprise us, particularly as Jesus said it would happen. Although we see it now, did it also happen at the time of the early church or even earlier? In Acts we can read of incidents where the apostles were treated very badly by the religious elite of their day. We know from history that Christians were subject to severe persecution by the Romans. In Hebrews 11:32-38 the writer lays out what happened to people of faith over the centuries. This all adds up to a picture that the life of faith will often lead to persecution and ridicule.
I don’t want to finish this post on a negative note. Persecution and ridicule may be inevitable, but it does not have to defeat us. In Acts 5 the apostles were imprisoned for sharing the good news. They were imprisoned and flogged, yet their response was:
The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name (Acts 5:41).
Paul’s words in Romans 8:35-37 should be an encouragement to us:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Pray: Father, we know that following you and living as Christians will bring us into conflict with society. May we understand that even though we may be knocked down, we are not defeated; we are more than conquerors. Amen