Are You Being Persecuted?

Are You Being Persecuted?


In 2 Timothy 3:12, Paul declared that “all who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted.” He didn’t say, “all who desire to live a godly life can be persecuted” or “all who desire to live a godly life may be persecuted.” He said, “all who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted.” That’s definitive, not speculative. That’s stated as a guarantee, not as a possibility. And, even though the type and degree of persecution can vary, what Paul is saying is that if you truly are a follower, then at some point in time, you will endure persecution.

This should not be surprising to us because Jesus talked about persecution in the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes, which are recorded in Matthew 5:2-12, are a description of the character qualities that are valued in the kingdom of heaven. They can be viewed kind of like a recipe for discipleship. In other words, if you were going to create a disciple, these qualities are the ingredients you would need. That means that all of the Beatitudes are of equal importance. We cannot pick and choose which ones we want to implement or pursue or embody. And that is important to understand because the eighth and ninth Beatitudes address persecution. In Matthew 5:10-12, Jesus said…

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

In these two verses, Jesus tells us that persecution occurs for two reasons: either as Matthew 5:10 (ESV) says, “for righteousness’ sake,” or as Matthew 5:11 (ESV) says, “on my account.”

What did Jesus mean when He said that we would be persecuted “for righteousness’ sake”? To answer that question, we need to define what righteousness is. One of the best definitions of righteousness that I have found is this: “a desire to see God’s standards established and obeyed in every area of life.”1 I think this definition coincides with a statement made by Moses in Deuteronomy 6. After instructing the Israelites to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” in 6:5 and warning them to “take care lest you forget the Lord” in 6:12, Moses says in 6:24-25 (ESV)…

the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. 25 And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us.

Moses indicated that doing what God commanded them to do would “be righteousness for” the Israelites. Thus, righteousness can be simply summarized as “right-living before God.”2

Now, let’s consider what Jesus meant when He spoke about being persecuted “on my account” in Matthew 5:11. This is best exemplified by what Peter experienced in the courtyard of the High Priest while Jesus was on trial. We read about it in Matthew 26:69-74 (ESV)…

…Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” 71 And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” 73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” 74 Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed.

What caused these people to confront Peter on three different occasions that night? Had he personally offended those people around the fire? Had he broken some social norm or committed some heinous crime? The only thing Peter had done was that he became a follower of Jesus. Every accusation against him centered around his association with Jesus—“You also were with Jesus” (26:69), “This man was with Jesus” (26:71), “you…are one of them” (26:73). Peter’s encounter around that charcoal fire in the courtyard of the high priest’s house is indicative of what Jesus meant when He said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”

So think about this: if you’re not being persecuted—which can entail physical harm, verbal abuse, or social ostracism—is it because you’re not doing what’s right, or is it because no one knows you’re associated with Jesus? If “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” then the logical conclusion is that all of us should experience persecution in some fashion. And if persecution occurs either because we’re doing what is right or because we’re associated with Jesus, then the absence of persecution means the absence of one or both of those causes. So if you’re not being persecuted, then is it because you’re not doing what’s right, or is it because no one knows you’re a Christian?

1 Craig L. Blomberg, Matthew. The New American Commentary, Vol. 22. (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing, 1992), 100.

 2Sellers S. Crain, Truth for Today Commentary: Matthew 1-13 (Searcy, AR: Resource Publications, 2010), 148.

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