“The Faces of Persecution”
The Faces of Persecution
by Jeff Curtis
Paul said that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2Timothy 3:12; John 15:20; 1Thessalonians 3:3-4). Jesus mentioned in Matthew 5:10-11 several different types of persecution that may be directed against Christians.
Christians may be physically persecuted. Many early Christians were crucified, burned at the stake, herded into Roman arenas to be killed by wild animals for the mere amusement of the bored public, or burned alive as human torches to provide light in the arenas at night.
Christians may be “insulted.” If we lead righteous lives, we will be objects of insult and persecution at the hands of those who live in a worldly manner (John 15:18-20).
Christians may have lies told about them. Rather than speaking openly, evildoers often whisper behind Christians’ backs. As hurtful as public attacks can be, they at least give us the opportunity to defend ourselves against them. When the attacks are “stabs in the back,” they can do serious harm to our reputations before we have any knowledge of them.
We may sometimes suffer because of our own lack of good sense, foolishness, or blundering. Some believe that they are being persecuted because of their beliefs, when they are only facing the earthly consequences of evil deeds (1Peter 4:14-16). Such people act as if they are martyrs. This type of “victim” behavior may itself invite persecution on some people. Robinson said of such people, “They are very zealous people, label grabbers with a religion that probably never goes beyond the shirt pocket. They may think that they bear the offense of the cross, but they are just plain offensive.”
We should be careful not to behave offensively, dress offensively, or speak offensively. If we conduct ourselves in this way and offend others so that they reject us or look down on us, they are not persecuting us. Rather, we are suffering because of our own improper behavior. That is not the circumstances that Jesus said would be a blessing.
How should we react to persecution? Jesus said, “Rejoice and be glad” (Matthew 5:12). He did not exactly mean for us to “grin and bear it.” He reminded us of the reason for rejoicing; the fact that our “reward in heaven is great.” Our ultimate reward will be our eternal home in heaven, but not all of our reward is in the future (Mark 10:29-30). We have abundant life and all spiritual blessings now in Christ (John 10:10; Ephesians 1:3).