‘Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’ (Matthew 5:10-12)
No one wants to be rejected or ridiculed; yet according to Christ, such persecution is actually a time to rejoice and be glad. Why so? For one thing, we are suffering for the cause of Christ. Secondly, we will one day be rewarded in heaven.
Whenever I hear the word ‘persecution’, my heart goes out to the many Christians around the world who are being brutally attacked and abused for their faith. A visit to web sites such as persecution.com can be an eye-opening experience, and one that should remind us to be more thankful for the freedoms we still enjoy.
Yet, even in America, there is a growing resistance to Christianity. Much of the media seems determined to report only the negative things about those who follow Christ. Many college students have to sit in classes where professors openly refute and make fun of the Bible. And at many workplaces, employees can celebrate holidays like Halloween, yet are prohibited from displaying anything that will reflect the true meaning of Christmas.
Though America has in many aspects been a Christian nation, there is no guarantee that it will continue to be so in the years to come. Today there is a growing movement to promote a philosophy known as ‘pluralism’ which says that all religions are equal. Today no one objects to someone being spiritual, just as long as their spirituality has nothing to do with Christ.
These trends should not surprise us, nor silence us. The words of Jesus seem to indicate that He expects His followers to be persecuted. His encouragement is not to avoid this persecution, but instead to accept it as part of being a follower of Christ and to know that one day He will give us a reward.
“Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven…”
Heaven will be a place of reward and recognition, and a great part of it will go to those who were persecuted because of their commitment to live a righteous life.