Preparing for Persecution
As Jesus completed His discussion of the Beatitudes, He stated that those who find the kingdom of God are those who are willingly persecuted for righteousness’ sake. This is the culmination of everything discussed in this section of the Lord’s Sermon. Willingness to endure pain for the cause of Christ is characteristic of one who has been emptied of self and fully filled with the principles of godliness.
American Christians have not known the suffering that befell the early disciples of Christ. For much of its history, the American government has befriended faith. Far from persecuting the faithful, it has often provided incentives that encourage spirituality. Whether genuine or not, political leaders still speak of God and prayer. What a blessing this has been!
Yet, in the words of an old Bob Dylan song, “The times, they are a changin.” It takes no great theological skill to understand that as the United States citizenry becomes more secular in its thinking, the peace afforded to those of faith will diminish. While this may come in the form of physical persecution, it is more likely to come in the way Jesus described immediately after giving the beatitude. He stated, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:11 ESV). Consider how this is already occurring in matters of morality. Those who take a strong stance on the villainy of abortion are characterized as “anti-woman” and those who believe homosexuality is wrong are labeled “homophobic.” Just as the Lord described, these are falsehoods spoken against the people of faith. Remember, persecution is not always administered with a whip!
As the moral situation continues a rather rapid deterioration, it is not time for the people of God to lose their optimism or their indescribable peace (see Philippians 4:7). Instead, it is time to examine the strength of faith. If the government should begin turning an unfriendly face toward people of faith, faith must not falter! As verbal attacks increase toward those who refuse to surrender godly morality, it is time for the people of God to demonstrate the resilience necessary to perhaps lose both reputation and employment. Remember: “For theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.”
Doom and gloom handwringing aids no one. Still, realism dictates preparation. Real peace does not hinge on conformity to human standards; instead, it relies on being true to God both in season and out. May each Christian pray to lead a “quiet and peaceable life,” while preparing to stand firm no matter what may come.