Think about all the groups and clubs and teams that have tried to entice you to join throughout your life. How do they do it? They tell you about all the benefits, how it will help you, how much fun you will have, and generally try to make it overwhelmingly appealing. And if it is at all possible that something might go wrong or not be so pleasant, they bury it in print so small and voluminous that nobody reads it until it’s too late.
Jesus doesn’t do that. He is not interested in manipulating or coercing people to follow Him. And unlike anyone else he is brutally honest about the fact that you will suffer and the various forms this suffering will take.
Today’s difficult teaching is…
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and utter all kinds of calumnies against you for my sake.”
This is from Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 5, verses 10-11.
Jesus isn’t saying, “Listen, if you decide to make this journey with me there is a slight chance that you will get persecuted.” Here and in other places in the Gospels, He promises His people persecution. He isn’t saying, “You might be persecuted.” He is saying, “You will be persecuted.”
There is however a key word in this verse. Righteousness. We don’t talk about righteousness anymore. People used to say things like, “He was a good and righteous man.” But not anymore. If we take a look at the definition, we gain insight as to why this word has all but disappeared from the modern vocabulary. The definition of righteousness is, “The quality of being morally right.” We don’t hear much about righteousness anymore because nobody wants to talk about morality, because talking about morality requires that some behaviors be deemed right and others wrong. And today’s culture is allergic to such clarity.
So, when we are persecuted, and we all are at times, it’s important to differentiate between two types of persecution. There is the persecution that has nothing to do with your faith and the fact that you are striving to be a disciple of Jesus, and the persecution leveled at you because you are awakening something in others by your words or actions that they would rather be left to sleep. Don’t confuse being persecuted for your own shortcomings with being persecuted for the striving to love and share the Gospel.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted.” This being the case it is also important not to intentionally avoid persecution in a way that causes you to abandon Jesus and His way.
Life is difficult. Following Jesus is difficult. We only make it harder for ourselves when we try to make it easy.
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