Peacemaking for God will provoke persecution in this world. Effective difference makers for God should anticipate negative reactions for their positive actions and false accusations for their good intentions. While the world chooses to refuse the truth that Jesus is the only way to the Father, we, who have experienced him, know that he is all life, and life in abundance. Yes, identity with Jesus in this world reaps unjust persecution, and this is what every believer should expect and be ready to accept.
Let’s consider the life Jesus lived that brought him to the cross:
- His sole objective was to follow God’s specific guidance every single day.
- He manifested God’s love wherever he was and to everyone around him.
- He stood up against evil and opposition to God’s commandments.
- He daily discipled his followers, showing them his way to live and minister to others.
- He was always ready for worldly reactions to his actions.
Expect Unjust Persecution
Much persecution exists in this evil world and entire masses of humanity endure great wrongs; however, what separates the persecution of the blessed from others suffering persecution is the cause—for righteousness sake. These are persecuted because they refuse to renounce the sacred place of God in their lives.
This last Beatitude instructs us to anticipate the same treatment in this world that Jesus experienced. Man, with his intolerance and unbelief, has not changed, nor has Satan. At this point in our quest, the supreme goal is to become more and more like our Lord and reflect his image in every way. His path is the best for our lives, and his Holy Spirit and grace now characterize our lives.
In the first century, persecution of the newly formed church was brutal and relentless. Satan and his world were cruelly attacking this new religion in every way possible. In Romans 8:31-36, Paul exhorts his fellow believers by saying,
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? . . . Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.
Martyrs are not only those who suffer a physical death for Christ, but also are those who live in a constant state of readiness to sacrifice their life for his cause. God knows our heart and how ready we are at any moment to pay the supreme price.
Think about it. Righteous living affects almost every waking decision. How will you begin your day? By clicking on the news or seeking communion with the Lord of the Universe? As you travel to school or work, will you listen to the morning radio shows with their criticisms of others and innuendos, or tune to music or message that will inspire and focus you on Jesus for the day? During the day do you participate in gossip, or do you edify those around you? Do you plunge right into your midday meal or offer a word of grace while others stare or take note? Do you respond to a frustrating person with irritation and pride, or do you offer the offender grace and/or words of forgiveness? The daily choices are endless, but these decision-points clearly display how sincerely we live for God. Our decisions and actions for God predispose us to persecution by the world.
Another important response is our reaction to those individuals who seek to control us or who unexpectedly attack us. Do such instances reveal the presence of His Spirit within us, and our daily spiritual discipline to demonstrate that we are followers of Christ?
The basic question is: Are we prepared to live and/or die as daily martyrs for Christ”? To do so requires a deep denial of self. But the benefit of such selflessness might, just as Paul exhorts, cause others to ask for a defense of the Gospel, opening the door to share why we are compelled and empowered to be different. What matters to others is not important to us; our only desire is to please God.
Lord, into Your Hands I commend my spirit and my reputation. —T. W. Hunt and Claude N. King, “Mind of Christ”