Not a pleasant word. And not something that I really want to go through. But one thing that the Bible warns us is that it will come. Paul warns us in 2 Timothy 3:12,
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
Not might be. Not possibly will be. Will.
Like I said in the last blog, if your goal is to be like your Teacher, some people will hate you for it. Persecution is just the next step beyond that.
Jesus knew that, so he warned his disciples about it. He called them (and us) sheep among wolves (16).
What instructions does he give about facing persecution?
First, as I mentioned before, be on your guard. Watch out for the people that would hurt you because of your faith. Jesus was talking about physical harm, of course, but we could extend it to emotional harm as well. There are some people with vile tongues that will try to hurt you because of your faith. Know who they are. And if you’re in danger of getting hurt either physically or emotionally, Jesus says to flee. Don’t feel like you have to keep preaching to them once you’ve fulfilled your duty. Rather, Jesus says that if they reject your message to,
Shake the dust off your feet when you leave [them]. (14)
Jews used to do that when leaving foreign lands because they felt to take the dirt from those lands into Israel would be to make Israel unclean. And so Jesus was telling his disciples, “Make it clear to these Jews who reject you that they are the ones who are unclean because they have rejected your message, and that their blood is now on their own heads, because you have warned them.”
In the same way, we should let people know, “I’ve done my duty, but you’ve rejected my message, and now you’re persecuting me because of it. I feel sorry for you and love you, but I can’t make you believe. You are now responsible before God for what you do with what I’ve told you.”
And then leave. Once you’ve fulfilled your duty, there is no need to expose yourself to further abuse.
It is easy, however, once we’ve been exposed to persecution to become afraid that it will happen again. And because of that, we become hesitant to speak again to others who have not heard the message. But Jesus tells us,
Do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. (26-27)
In other words, “My words that I have told to you in private will eventually get out. Nothing can stop it, not even persecution. So don’t be afraid. Keep proclaiming boldly what I’ve told you.”
He then warns us not to fear those who can kill their body, but the one that can destroy body and soul in hell (28). That’s not Satan. Satan is a victim of hell, not the ruler. But we are to remember that people are dying and going to hell every day because they have rejected God. God has no choice but to send them there, because no impure thing can enter heaven. That fear for those we hold dear should be more than enough to keep us proclaiming boldly the message of the gospel no matter what persecution we may face.
But then he gives us words of comfort,
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (29-31)
Jesus tells us that though persecution will come, God will not forget you. He will see you though. And if the time comes when you must die for his sake (Jesus never says that the sparrow won’t die, only that it never happens apart from God’s will), even in that God will be with you and you will see him shortly on the other side.
So let us not fear persecution. Rather let us proclaim boldly the Word of Life that he has given us.