Suffering for Him

For the disciple of Jesus, retaliation and violence are NOT appropriate reactions when persecution occurs. Rather than respond in kind, they must meet threats and violence with humility, mercy, and forgiveness, which is part of what it means to “deny yourself, take up his cross” and follow him wherever he leads. Praying and doing good for one’s “enemies” is contrary to the “wisdom of this age,” yet doing so is how the disciple emulates the Crucified One and begins to become “perfect” like his Father in Heaven.

In stark contrast to this fallen world, Jesus exhorted his disciples to “rejoice and leap for joy” whenever “men hate you, and ostracize you, and profane you, and spurn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man.” The persecuted disciple was especially “blessed” and therefore should “exult greatly” since “great is his reward in heaven” - (Matthew 5:10-12).

Forest Trail - Photo by Michael Elliott on Unsplash
[Photo by Michael Elliott on Unsplash]

By enduring trials and persecution faithfully, and with grace, the disciple conforms his life to that of Jesus, and he learns what it means to “
follow the Lamb wherever he goes.” Just as his enemies abused him, so the enemies of the Cross mistreat the man who dares to tread the same path as the Nazarene did.

After his resurrection, his disciples took this teaching to heart. When Peter was hauled before the Sanhedrin and ordered to cease preaching, rather than respond with anger or denunciations, he went his way “rejoicing that he was counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.”

On another occasion, after being abused and imprisoned, Paul and Silas spent the night “praying and singing hymns to God” from their prison cell. At no point did they curse their persecutors or call down God’s wrath on them - (Acts 5:41, 16:23-25).

Jesus provided the ultimate example of enduring unjust suffering for others. As Isaiah prophesied, the “Servant of Yahweh” was “oppressed and afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth.” The man anointed by God Himself did not “wrangle or cry aloud, nor did anyone hear his voice in the streets. He did not break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick” - (Isaiah 53:7).


Jesus exhorted anyone who wished to follow him to “love your enemies and pray for them who persecute you.” Showing mercy to your enemy, especially to one’s persecutor, is how his disciple becomes “perfect” or “complete” like God. “Perfection” is achieved not through self-discipline and moral purity, but through acts of mercy to one’s enemies. The “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” desires “mercy, not sacrifice” - (Matthew 5:38-48).

Since the creation, Jesus is the only truly righteous man who has ever lived. If anyone deserved respect for his “rights,” he did. Yet rather than be served or lord it over others, the one destined to reign from the Messianic Throne chose “to serve and give his life a ransom for many.”

This he did by suffering a horrific and undeserved death for our sake. Not only so, but he chose to die for us when we were “yet enemies of God.” Conforming to this pattern is how his disciple becomes “great in the Kingdom of God” - (Matthew 20:28, Romans 5:10).

When an armed mob arrested Jesus, Peter drew his sword and “smote the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear.” Jesus then did the unexpected. Rather than join Peter in defending his “rights” and lopping off body parts, he rebuked the hot-tempered disciple, commanding him to sheathe his sword. He then healed the wounded man who had come to arrest him - (John 18:10-12).

Interrogated, beaten, and reviled before the High Priest, Jesus reviled not in return. While in his death throes on the Roman Cross, he prayed for his Father to “forgive them, for they know not what they do” - (Matthew 27:39, Mark 15:32, Luke 23:34).

In Scripture, persecution is something disciples should expect and endure faithfully. Not only so, but to suffer for his sake is a great honor and a matter for rejoicing, not anger or despair.

In some nations today, through loud protests and legal machinations, Christians may avoid persecution; however, in doing so, they may rob themselves of something of infinitely greater value than a comfortable life in this fallen age.

Mountain path - Photo by Brian Erickson on Unsplash
[Photo by Brian Erickson on Unsplash]

We like to insist on respect for our inviolate civil “rights” that must be defended at all costs, though this flies in the face of New Testament teachings on discipleship, mercy, suffering, and forgiving our enemies.

The man who would be his disciple must “take up his cross daily and follow” the same path that Jesus did. Failure to do so makes one unworthy of the “Kingdom of God.” To become "greatest" in His realm, his disciple must first become the “slave of all.” The Cross means denying to yourself that which is yours by right.

In contrast to the political ideologies and systems of the present age, the Kingdom of God offers its citizens the far greater privilege of self-sacrificial service for Jesus and his people, and the very high honor of enduring insults, hatred, and persecution because of him. The rewards for doing so in the “age to come” will far outweigh any losses we might suffer in this present life.




Abraham's Seed

No Middle Ground