“Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” 2 Tim. 3:12.
Whoever seeks to live a Christlike life must expect some form of hostility from an ungodly world. The spectrum of persecution ranges from mild to intense, starting with ridicule, restriction, harassment, and discrimination, and progressing to torture, imprisonment, ostracism, and death.
Writing from prison, Paul told young Timothy, pastor of the Church in Ephesus, that “all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” 2 Tim. 3:12. He wrote from his lived realities, having had a lifetime of suffering for the sake of Christ. Timothy knew all about his “persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured”. It was in Lystra, Timothy’s hometown, that Paul was stoned, dragged out of the city, and left for dead (see Acts 14:20).
Summarizing his experiences, Paul said: “Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning” (see 2 Cor. 11:24-25). So, Paul was not speaking theoretically and philosophically, but realistically, practically, and experientially. He lived it.
Not only did Jesus alert his disciples to the inevitability of persecution by saying: “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you…If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (John 15:18); He also said persecution for righteousness’ sake should be regarded as an honour. He stated: “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake” Matt. 5: 11. William Hendricksen wrote that “Scars are the price which every believer pays for his loyalty to Christ.”
In this increasingly secular and materialistic age, it is becoming progressively more unpopular to be followers of Jesus and to publicly declare our faith in God. Followers of Jesus are prone to be insulted, ridiculed, misunderstood, criticized, and even hated. Don’t be surprised if family and friends turn against us, revile and scorn us because of our zeal for the Lord. Let us regard it as an honour and a small price to pay for our loyal service to Christ. The scars of gossip, hatred, name-calling, envy, malice, and vindictiveness should be worn as a badge of honour by the soldiers of Christ. Jesus and Paul had their scars. Do you have any scars as a result for your faithfulness to God?
Living a Christlike life in this broken world that idealizes relativism can be costly. Standing and speaking up for the marginalized, victimized, and abused; defending the rights of children and vulnerable adults; and speaking out against injustices in high and low places are acts that are unlikely to be warmly embraced, but which are more likely to be followed by a knife in the back.
Nevertheless, followers of Christ are assured that no amount of “trials, tribulation, distress, persecution…peril, or the sword, is able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”. Therefore, I join Henry K. White and F.S. Fuller-Maitland in saying:
“Onward then in battle move;
More than conquerors you shall prove;
Though opposed by many a foe,Christian soldiers, onward go.”
(VIP # 336)
Thought: Always do what is right, even if it is costly.
Pray for all those who are being persecuted for doing what is right.