Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people 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 in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:10-12, New Revised Standard Version).
In the past month I have heard three people talk about how persecuted Christians are in the United States. In every case the person claiming persecution was talking about how Christian business owners were being “persecuted” because they did not want to do something that went against their Christian beliefs. In one case it was providing birth control to employees. In another it was providing medical benefits to a gay person’s unmarried partner. I didn’t hear all of the third situation but I do know it was an issue involving Christian social values. In each case the Christian stood alone against the world.
Also in each case, the person making the argument said the person involved was “being persecuted” (please note, I am not saying the person who actually had the problem was claiming persecution). Persecution? Really? Give me a break and give it a rest. This IS NOT persecution. If you want to argue discrimination on the grounds of religious freedoms, I can agree, but not persecution.
When Christians are literally losing their heads to people of non-Christian faiths in other parts of the world, what Christians face in the United States today is mild by comparison. I am not saying it is right, I am saying it is mild. It could even be that there are cases of religious persecution in the United States. Anything is possible. What I am saying is, cases like those I outlined above and cases that have been front and center in the news in the past few years are not cases of persecution. I believe discrimination is present and the government has not only turned a blind eye to those who are experiencing the discrimination, they have been party to it.
When we claim persecution in these relatively trivial matters, we make light of what people who are truly persecuted experience. When people experience brutal torture and even death for their faith, that is persecution. When a parent has to watch a child die because the parent claimed Christ, that is persecution. Our experience is rarely, if ever their experience.
The world Jesus walked in, the world Jesus preached to in the Sermon on the Mount was a world where people of faith was a world of persecution. Jesus experienced persecution. For generations after the death and resurrection of Jesus, that world experienced persecution. To place our troubles in the same thoughts as these people, many of the martyrs for the faith, shows many of us truly have no idea what it means to experience persecution.
We live in a world that is decidedly not Christian. Scripture makes it clear, we will experience times where the world will go against us. For many in the world, it will mean persecution. For most of us in the west it is really discrimination. We shouldn’t be surprised by it. Christianity at its most basic has been a counter-cultural movement. The culture will always be at odds to some degree with matters of faith. We are called to live by faith anyway.
Perhaps people are quick to claim persecution because of the promise made to the persecuted, “…theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” We want to inherit the kingdom of heaven. We needn’t worry. Acceptance to the kingdom is not based on being persecuted. It isn’t based on discrimination. It is really based on one simple thing, faith in Jesus Christ. For that, we can all be thankful. Though it may mean discrimination and for some even persecution. We keep living the faith. That is what matters.
How can you continue living out the faith in ways that show the world what really matters?
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Peace,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved