Upon even the most casual of readings of the New Testament, it is impossible to miss the clear reality that those who follow Christ are promised that they will suffer and be despised for following him. These things simply come with the territory. Jesus declares that we who follow him should not to be alarmed at this, for he says, “A servant is not greater than his master; if they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (Jn. 15:20a). Paul also declares that our suffering is of Providential and salvific necessity, writing, “The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if we are children, we are heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided that we suffer with him so that we might also be glorified with him” (Rom. 8:17, variation mine). Our suffering and revilement is made to be necessary by our association with Christ and is ordained to be necessary by the nature of the Gospel.
One point that might not be so obvious about our suffering and revilement as followers of Christ is from whom it will come. We tend to think that if we are going to suffer and be reviled as Christians, we are going to suffer and be reviled by atheists, Muslims, etc. However, the longer that I live and the more that I read the Scriptures, it seems to me that a good part if not a majority of our suffering and revilement will come at the hands of those who call themselves Christians. Why do I say that? Look at those who persecuted Christ. It was not the Samaritans, the Romans, or the Gentiles who criticized, despised, and persecuted Christ through the Gospels, it was those who claimed to be awaiting the Messiah. Christ intimates this in Matthew 5, “Great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Christ says that just as they—religious Jews, persecuted and killed the prophets, so they—religious Christians, will persecute you if you follow hard after Christ. For if the Pharisees, who knew the Scriptures and built monuments to the prophets, killed the Prophet, why should we be shocked if many of those who cry out, “Lord, Lord!” despise and ridicule us who actually follow Christ and his teachings?
When these things happen—when those whom you respect and love in the Church turn on you and say all kinds of evil about you behind your back simply because you are striving to follow Christ with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might, take refuge in this trustworthy statement by our Lord: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mt. 5:11, 12).
Categories: Quick Thoughts