18 January 2018
GraceNotes – A Journey of Discovery
Scripture: Matthew 5:1-12 (Click link for scripture in Bible Gateway)
10 God blesses those who are persecuted because they live for God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. 11 God blesses you when you are mocked and persecuted and lied about because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted, too. (Matthew 5:10-12 NLT)
Many of Jesus’ first followers were persecuted for their faith, persecuted because they were living for God. They were slandered, lost their jobs and homes, were imprisoned and tortured, and many of them lost their lives, simply because they would not back down from their commitment to live for God—to follow Jesus.
Something we often overlook, however, is that between 2015 and 2017 persecution of Christians has reached an all-time historical high. This is partly due to the fact that non-western Christians are taking the Gospel of God’s Kingdom into places the message has never been heard before, it’s partly due to the rise of terrorist groups in Africa and the Middle East who focus their persecution primarily on Christians, and partly due to crackdowns on freedoms for Christians in North Korea and China.
Another form of persecution is the increasing marginalization of Christianity in previously “Christian” nations in the west. But let’s be clear on something, the reaction Christians get by being hateful and judgmental toward non-Christians is not persecution! There are no “persecution points” for being a self-righteous jerk!
Jesus: “The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are persecuted because they live for God.” But really, those who suffer persecution for their faith in Jesus have already chosen heaven over this life and its rewards. What we lose, give up, and let go of in this life, whether it is our possessions, our rights, our reputation, even our lives, comes back many times over in the eternity we have chosen by faith.
Father, It’s scary to think of being persecuted for my faith! I know that multitudes of the faithful have gone before me, multitudes experience persecution daily, and the battle is only intensifying in this world. May my friends and I be strong in faith, may we be willing to let go the temporary and hold fast to the eternal. And if and when we’re persecuted, may it be because we’re living like Jesus and not because we’re acting self-righteous and hateful and being jerks! In Jesus’ Name!