Persecution: “a program or campaign to exterminate, drive away, or subjugate people based on their membership in a religious, ethnic, social, or racial group” (dictionary.com).
We know the word well and we see or read about Christians around the world who have suffered, and continue to suffer, a “campaign to exterminate”. Just as we are with the life of Jesus, however, we are at a safe distance in the US and are well protected. Oh, we like to try and claim persecution because of certain social standards being forced on us, but the reality is we have no idea what persecution actually feels like. We are more accustomed to being “offended”.
We are encouraged, in the Letter to the Hebrews, to “consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (12:3).
Note that the text does not encourage us to take up arms or prepare to fight. Rather we are encouraged by the “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) to persevere in faithful discipleship. We are encouraged by Jesus Himself who did not raise a hand in His own defense. Note also that Jesus did not engage with Pilate in a theological debate nor did Jesus do much more even with the evil one in the wilderness but to not only quote the Scriptures but to remain steadfast in His sense of purpose according to the Scriptures.
As has been said before: if we think being a Christian is easy, we probably are not doing it right. In a “progressive” world deceived by its own notions of enlightenment, standing firm in the faith and in accordance with what is written in the Scriptures is not going to be easy. It will not get easier though by sanctification we are made stronger in the faith when we choose to persevere in faith, when we choose complete allegiance to the Great Shepherd who assured us He will lead the way to blessedness.
All this is to say we do not need to go looking for a fight. It will come to us soon enough, and we will be severely tested. This is why Scripture study, fasting, and a healthy prayer life are all necessary for the disciple. We must not think we will never be challenged on our way to Calvary – if, in fact, we are headed to Calvary. It can probably be said that the more faithful and determined we are, the more resistance we will encounter.
Stand firm in the faith. You are in good company.