“All those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” 2nd Timothy 3:12
Have you ever been disliked, put down, or even hated? When we make bad choices, sin, or hurt others, it is foreseeable that others might keep their distance from us. However, what if you were hated (to the point of being despised) because you were good, helpful, and loving? That would be so hard to fathom, right? But, Jesus endured such hatred and is still enduring it. The Bible says that He was hated without a cause and we will be too.
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but 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 also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’” ~John 15:18-25
By this scripture, we can see that there is a reason that we may be hated for following Christ; thus, the title of this blog entry…”Hated for the Right Reason.” In the time span which I have had this blog, it is no surprise that I have been ridiculed and criticized. Even a handful of people I knew personally have turned their backs on me for sharing the truth. I hold no grudges against those individuals, but the reason I brought this up is to say that persecution comes in all forms. I scarcely consider my criticism as genuine persecution. Nonetheless, cutting words and persecution come from a heart of hatred toward God. Anybody who takes a stand for the truth of God’s Word will not always be well-accepted.
Bold Christians Will Be Persecuted
Worldly people demean Christians as being bigots, narrow-minded, old-fashioned, fools, unrealistic, brain-washed, legalistic, etc. Even Satan himself accuses us before God day and night (see Rev. 12:10). Many Believers are threatened, imprisoned, tortured, and even put to death for confessing Jesus Christ as Lord. To the Christian who is deeply rooted in Christ, persecution comes as no surprise and does not deter him/her. However, Jesus explained how others would be too shallow and run away when persecution comes. “As for what was sown on the stony ground, this is the person who hears the word and accepts it joyfully at once, but since he doesn’t have any root in himself, he lasts for only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes along because of the word, he immediately falls away” Matthew 13:20-21.
The Christian who endures any level of persecution is never asking for it nor desiring it; however, when it comes – it is fulfilling what scripture already taught. Matthew 10:22 states: “And you will be hated by all for my [Jesus] name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Our love and commitment for Jesus takes precedence over our human desire to be accepted by others. Actually, Jesus considers us blessed when people insult and persecute us – knowing that we will be rewarded greatly in heaven. “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” Matthew 5:10-12.
Also, 1st Peter 4:12-14 states: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”
Christian Elder in India, Zac Poonen, once said in a sermon, “Christian chameleons will not be persecuted.” If we want the luxury of Christianity without the sacrifices and discipline thereof, what good is our Christianity? How are we spreading the Gospel as scripture tells us to do? Are we willing to take a stand even when it is uncomfortable? What if your name was being falsely slandered in the presence of your dearest friend and they said nothing? How would that make you feel? Just as Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” As Christians, we are considered to be friends of God. We are to boldly confess His truths and have enough of a backbone to stand up for Him – even when it is uncomfortable. Many martyrs for Christ have lost their very life for confessing Jesus as Lord; how dare we complain or distress over such lesser forms of persecution that come upon us. James 4:4 states: “Ye unfaithful people, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”
Examples of Persecution
In scripture, there were many examples of saints being persecuted. All of Jesus’ disciples were killed for telling others about Jesus, except John. However, he underwent plenty of cruel treatment and was banished to a deserted island. The Apostle Paul was imprisoned for a season for sharing the Gospel. He also endured many other hardships due to his stand for the truth. The Psalmist, David, endured hatred and feared constantly for his life.
In Psalm 55:1-3, the Psalmist prayed, “Pay attention to my prayer, God, and do not hide yourself from my appeal. Pay attention to me and answer me. I moan and groan in my thoughts, because of the voice of the enemy, and because of the oppression of the wicked. They bring down evil upon me, and in anger they hate me.”
The prophet, Jeremiah, was also hated by men. In Jeremiah 15:10 it says, “Then I said, ‘What sorrow is mine, my mother. Oh, that I had died at birth! I am hated everywhere I go. I am neither a lender who threatens to foreclose nor a borrower who refuses to pay–yet they all curse me.'” Jeremiah was known as the “weeping prophet”. He was no stranger to grief and tears.
Of course, there are numerous other saints in scripture who endured severe persecution and hatred. Even nowadays, many who bear the name of Christ are ridiculed, tortured, imprisoned, and even killed. We are not greater than our Master, Jesus. And He underwent the ultimate hatred upon the cross of Calvary where He was sentenced to death for teaching truth. Isaiah 53:3 states: “He was despised and rejected–a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.”
How to Handle Persecution
As bold Christians who speak truth, we will be persecuted; some to a lesser degree and some to a more severe degree. But, how do we deal with persecution when it comes? We are to let the Lord vindicate us and we are to conquer evil by doing good. Let’s review a few scriptures:
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you…” Matthew 5:44
“Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.” Romans 12:14
“Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the Lord. Instead, ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.’ Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” Romans 12:17-21
Comforted In Persecution
In the end, overwhelming victory is predetermined for the Believer. Satan will be cast into the Lake of Fire and we will rule and reign with Christ. In our moments of persecution, scripture brings such comfort. 2nd Corinthians 4:8-9 says, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed…”
In closing, let this scripture in Romans 8:34-39 encourage you:
“Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, ‘For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.’) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”