The Apostle Paul, in exhorting Timothy, said, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” (2 Timothy 3:12).
Avoiding The Inevitable
I’ve found that much of my life as a follower of Jesus has been spent trying to avoid the inevitable. Persecution. But Paul’s exhortation to Timothy is clear. The persecution of Christians is inevitable if you’re really living a life that is following the ways of Jesus. It’s not a popular concept and it’s not the “pitch” we throw to try and win people to Jesus. No. We tell them, “come to Jesus and everything will get better.” But this is rarely, if ever the case. Yes, the follower of Jesus has eternal salvation through faith in the finished work of Jesus, but this life now is not miraculously fixed. That will need to wait until the kingdom is fully inaugurated. Jesus himself said that there is a cost to being his follower. And it’s a heavy cost. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:23-25). The cost is that of giving your life completely to him.
Persecution American Style
I often here it said of persecution, “Come on, it isn’t that bad, it isn’t like anybody is trying to kill us.” I understand the sentiment and I firmly believe that we’re blessed to live in a country where if I say the name of Jesus the chances are good that I’m not going to get shot, however, it doesn’t mean that being cussed out for the name of Jesus is any less persecution than the person who gets the gun pointed at their head. Yes, one is certainly more extreme than the other, but Paul’s exhortation to Timothy did not include categories. He wasn’t warning Timothy about various levels of persecution, he was simply stating the fact that being a follower of Jesus means people will persecute you be it name calling or man slaughtering. Persecution is persecution.
Getting Over The Fear
It seems to me that the question that needs to be asked is, how do you get over the fear? Maybe you aren’t like me. I’m terrified at the prospect of people disliking me because of my beliefs. But in this terror is hidden the sin, the idol, that prevents me from moving beyond it. The sin is this: I’m more concerned about what others think and say about me than I am about following Jesus. The very thing that prevents me from living this godly life is the fact that I’d often much rather live a life that is approved by people more than by God. And this is precisely why I so desperately need Jesus. Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
Jesus is saying that man can do nothing to me and man can do nothing to you. The only one who really has any authority over your life is Jesus because he has the authority to destroy body and soul and cast them into hell.
The issue at hand is a gospel issue. Do you really believe in the finished work of Jesus? Do you really believe that it doesn’t matter what anyone else can say about you, do to you, or think of you because Jesus has been slandered in your place, died your death, and given you complete acceptance? In the life, death, and resurrection of Christ you and I are fully accepted by God the Father and this is what motivates us to live a godly life in Christ Jesus regardless what the level of persecution might be.