Turn to most Christian blogs or cable channels and you will hear faithful people ranting about persecution of Christians. Throughout the world, Christians face political oppression physical violence from those who would work to silence the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It isn’t new by any means, but it should also not be surprising. In today’s letter from Saint Paul to Timothy we are forever warned of persecution.
TIMOTHY, my son, you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, my sufferings, what befell me at Antioch, at lconion, and at Lystra, what persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. – 2nd Timothy 3.10-15
Most people are not surprised by this since persecution has been part of the Christian story from day one. What is surprising is the number of Christian who are ranting, as if there is some injustice being done, or as if Christian deserve to be left alone in their glory. If Saint Paul was correct, only those who do not desire a godly life will avoid persecution all together. Think about the impact of that statement.
We were not only told this by Saint Paul. Christ also prepared us…
- “They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them.” (John 16.2-4)
- “Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” (Luke 12.53)
- “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.” (John 15.20)
If we desire to live a godly life, we must stop pretending the world will embrace our way of life. Evil men will go from bad to worse, but we are servants of Christ crucified. He was beaten, ridiculed, whipped, lied about, and ultimately killed. Do we really expect anything better? Rather than spending so much energy on ranting about persecution, why not accept it and embrace that blessings that come.
It must also be said, this does not mean we run into the fire seeking to be persecuted and killed. There is no evidence the ancient Christians voluntarily were persecuted. Even Christ disappeared into the crowd before the time was right. There is a difference between asking for persecution and accepting it when it comes. I think the point Saint Paul was making was, it will come; stop trying to pretend it won’t and be ready for it.
Saint John Chrysostom teaches us that we can reduce our spiritual pain by accepting it. We know the same is true physical and emotionally. Panic attacks are an example. Many doctors teach the first step to recovering from a panic attack is to accept that it is happening. By not fighting against it, the pain is lessoned. If it is true for our bodies, it is true for our soul. Stop fighting against it as if we are better than Christ, and we can immediately reduce our suffering. There has been no injustice against us just because we were persecuted for our Christian faith. In fact, it just might be a badge of honor.