Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. Matthew 5:10-12
I believe we are living in the lengthening shadows of the last day. I believe Jesus Christ is coming soon, and one of the earmarks is persecution of the saints. We see it on TV, newscasts, and editorial pages. Ridicule any other group and you’ll be in trouble, but the wrath of our culture is reserved for the Christian. The Bible-believing Christian is the whipping boy.
But there is no way to be a genuine Christian and escape persecution. Our Lord said as much in Matthew 5. And through the apostle Paul He said, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution...” (2 Timothy 3:12).
So I want you to prepare yourself—and prepare your children, just as you prepare them to go to school—to live in a world increasingly hostile to genuine Christians.
The word persecution literally means “to pursue.” You’ll be hounded in many ways; you’ll become the butt of jokes; you may find you'll be ostracized socially, passed over for promotion, looked down upon as socially inappropriate.
When I was a young man working my way through school, I worked in construction alongside a man who was quite profane. He enjoyed ragging me about my faith, which I didn't mind really, but I was the object of a lot of jokes. When he learned I was going to be a preacher, he said, “Listen, young man, if you're going to be a preacher, be a good one. I knew a preacher one time who was a great guy. You could be around him—he’d never mention politics or religion.” That was his idea of a good preacher—a man who never talked about God!
Persecution comes to those who “desire to live godly in Christ Jesus.” If you just want to be the person who never takes a stand, never witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ, then people who profane Christ will think you’re “just fine.” Compromise with this world and you’ll escape persecution.
The Reasons for Persecution
Why are Christians persecuted?
The Life We Live
“…for righteousness sake" (v. 10)
Christians ought to stand out like a diamond in a coal mine. “Righteousness” comes from a Greek word meaning “to divide.” In a very real sense, Christians divide. A Spirit-filled Christian is going to be naturally supernatural—different—and persecuted. Children of God are children of light, alive in the spirit. The world is dead in trespasses and sin, children of darkness. We live by faith, they walk by sight. We understand them. But they do not understand us.
Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; you are the light of the world” (v.14-15). Light reveals. Just as salt irritates when poured into a wound, the gospel is an irritant to the wounds of this world and revealing light to its darkness. So the world says, “Remove that salt and put out that light.”
The Lord We Love
“…for My sake.” (v. 11)
This world hates Jesus Christ. Not the “baby Jesus”—everyone loves a baby in a manger—or the Jesus who healed the sick and fed multitudes. But it hates the Savior who said, “I have come to destroy the works of the devil”—abortion, pornography, pride, racism, greed. Jesus Christ stands against what the world stands for.
And when we stand with Him, He told us what would happen:
If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.
The world hates Jesus because He is not of the world. He said, "I've chosen you out of the world." Genuine Christian, prepare for it—you will be persecuted because you are devoted to your Lord.
For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake…” Philippians 1:29
If you begin to live with a burning, blazing, passionate love for Jesus Christ that will not back up, let up, or shut up, this world will come down on you like a hammer. Persecution is a thermometer registering how much you love the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Results of Persecution
What will this persecution be like?
“…men shall revile you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake.” (v. 11)
1. Personal insult. You will be the butt of jokes. People will laugh. When I gave my heart to Christ in high school and would not do things the other guys did, even though I was captain of my football team and president of our class, I learned what it was to be ridiculed and reviled for Jesus Christ.
2. Physical abuse. Verse 11 means more than just verbal abuse. They will actually do you harm if they can. More people died for Jesus Christ in the 20th century than all the other centuries combined, and it continues today.
3. Social stigma. They will say “all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake.” True Christians are rarely reported on accurately in either print or broadcast media. On TV, if one of the characters is a Christian, they’re portrayed as an authoritarian bigot, a cruel monster, psychologically demented, or an Elmer Gantry-type hypocrite. Typically, mainstream film and television producers are now overtly anti-Christian.
So what is the child of God to do in this dark day? Don’t give in to pessimism…God is still on His throne and He has not left you defenseless. In “The Weapons of our Warfare,” posted earlier this month, the Scripture tells us we have weapons, both defensive and offensive. Review that now if you have not already read it.
Part Two of this article will follow shortly, in which Adrian Rogers lays out a strategy—four specific responses we can make to persecution—in “How to Live Like a King’s Kid in Dark Days.”