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Persecution and the Gospel

How does Jesus expect us to react under persecution? Rejoice and be glad! That is right. Can we jump up and down for joy? With Jesus, it is not that we will be persecuted. We will. This issue is how we react.

Now that is radically different. That is not what I thought Jesus would say. Be happy. Be joyful. Dance a happy dance.

We are not to retaliate like an unbeliever, nor to sulk like a child, nor to lick our wounds in self-pity like a dog, nor just to grin and bear it like a Stoic, still less to pretend we enjoy it like a masochist.

“Fortunate[Blessed] are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” | Matthew 5:11-12

God’s goal: What then? We are to rejoice as a disciple should rejoice and even to ‘leap for joy’. Why so?

  • Partly because, Jesus added, our reward is great in heaven.
  • We may lose everything on earth, but we will inherit everything in heaven — not as a reward for merit, however, because ‘the promise of the reward is free’.
  • Partly because persecution is a token of genuineness, a certificate of authenticity, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before us.

When we are persecuted today, we belong to a noble succession. But the major reason why we should rejoice is because we are suffering, Jesus said, on my account, on account of our loyalty to Jesus and to his standards of truth and righteousness.

Certainly, the apostles learnt this lesson well for, having been beaten and threatened by the Sanhedrin, ‘they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name’.

They knew, as we should, that ‘wounds and hurts are medals of honor’ for Jesus.