10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 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
Christian persecution isn’t something we experience much of in the United States. We do on some level, mostly socially, but not as they do in other countries and not as the early Christians experienced it.
So, for me to write about Christian persecution feels somewhat cheapened by the generally protected society I have lived in.
I also feel somewhat ashamed and at the same time understanding of why Christianity in the United Stats can, at times, be lacking in zeal. For all of our protections, what have we done with our faith?
Our attempts to deal with unrighteousness within our society have failed massively, and largely due to our own failings to uphold what the faith is really about.
You don’t fight heart issues with law. Yet, many do just this, both inside the judicial system and within our churches. I could go on and on about our futile attempts to make man right with law and legalism—we who hold a gospel that brings change to heart by Spirit. How foolish we have been and how negligent!
You don’t fight heart issues with demeaning chants and protests. You don’t fight heart issues with self-righteous indignation and hypocrisy. Yet, many do just this, both in the public sphere and within our churches. I could go on and on about the hatefulness of many who carry the name of Jesus—hatefulness that rivals the most stubborn of unbelievers. We do not go into the kingdom of Heaven and we shut the door on others.
You don’t fight heart issues with “love” that accepts unrighteousness, encourages it, and praises it. Yet, many do just this, both within society and within our churches. I could go on and on about our butter backbones that are too weak to stand up for anything good and true but instead melt under societal pressures, conform to the world, and worship the world. We make children of Hell instead of children of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Do we even know how to suffer for righteousness’ sake in this country?
I have seen precious little of it. Not in any real and meaningful sense. My own “suffering” is pathetic. I have suffered mildly socially for my failure to align myself with any particular Christian sect. I have suffered mildly socially for saying hard things about the failings of United States Christianity in general. I have suffered mildly socially—and immensely in heart—for failing to see the working of Jesus in my heart that I believe the gospel promises—of which I am mocked.
Yet, I know that the gospel does indeed promise righteousness: righteousness that comes from a change of heart by the working of Jesus. Not law. Not abuse. Not calling evil good. According to the measure of grace we receive, we are healed from the inside out.
Christians in the United States are in danger of persecution. I have said this for a few years now—and this is not because the wicked are doing wickedly—but because we do not carry the name of Jesus faithfully. We do not preach the gospel adequately. We do not pursue righteousness effectively. We—for all of our protections—have no idea what it means to suffer His Name’s sake.
Now, this is not to belittle those who do suffer. Many suffer in their families, in their homes, and in their communities for living an upright Christian life. I see this too and it is a beautiful thing. However, the sad result is often one of hardness, self-righteousness, and hate. We have to rise above those who hate us as we rest in the teachings of Jesus and His promises for us. We cannot let His love in us grow cold.
It is because of our lack of real hardship that we do not know how to endure. For all of our blessings, we are poor. We are poor in spirit in this nation. How will we endure it when severe persecution comes?
I know that Jesus will make a way. I believe that for all of our failings, He is extraordinarily merciful. He has been so to me, and He continues to be merciful despite my own failings. I believe that He will strengthen us in spirit by the Holy Spirit if we truly believe in Him and trust in Him.
We will learn of our errors. We will come to better understanding. We will find the zeal of a convert yet again as we realize what being Christian is really about. We will see it and we will live it. We will be immeasurably thankful and in awe of how merciful our God is. We will praise Jesus for turning us around and bringing us to Him more fully.
At least, these latter things are my hope and prayer for many. It is also true that many will fall away when real trouble comes. They will fall away into more law and oppression. They will fall away into more unrighteous hate and self-righteous hypocrisy. They will fall into more prosperity seeking and worldly pleasures. They will fall into worship of something that is not Jesus—because they do so already.
This article is part of a series that considers the Parables of Jesus. Right now, we are looking at the statements Jesus made during His Sermon on the Mount, to which He referenced in His Parable of the Building on Rock and Sand. Visit the link for quick access to all articles written within this series. Subscribe for notifications of future posts.