Jesus suffered as a man on this earth. He was persecuted. He was hated. He was killed. Although we readily recognize these facts as believers, somehow we still seem surprised when we follow Jesus that there are people who downright dislike us. Jesus clearly said, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” Emotional, psychological, verbal, and even physical abuse can and does occur against God’s people who seek to walk in the ways of Jesus. There was a time in the first few centuries of the church that becoming a martyr for one’s faith was welcomed as living into the imitation of Jesus Christ. Even many modern day martyrs for Jesus around the globe have counted it a privilege to suffer as Jesus did.
This all sounds quite strange to Westerners who tend toward the notion that if we do everything with excellence and effectiveness that there will be no reason to be persecuted or to suffer. But the reality is that Jesus promised that in following him, there will be those who seethe with hatred toward us. We are not above our Master. If he suffered, we will, as well.
Thomas a Kempis, writing over five-hundred years ago to clergy students, captured the essence of Jesus when he said: “Sometimes it is to our advantage to endure misfortunes and adversities, for they make us enter into our inner selves and acknowledge that we are in a place of exile and that we ought not to rely on anything in this world. And sometimes it is good for us to suffer contradictions and know that there are those who think ill and badly of us, even though we do our best and act with every good intention. Such occasions are aids in keeping us humble and shield us from pride. When people ridicule and belittle us, we should turn to God, who sees our innermost thoughts, and seek his judgment.”
Almighty God, thank you for sending your Son, the Lord Jesus, on my behalf. Just as he suffered for me, I willingly suffer for him, since his infinite grace has delivered me from sin, death, and hell. I only ask to be found faithful at the end of the age when he returns to judge the living and the dead. Amen.