The apostles left . . . rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name [of Jesus].
When we read this story, we might wonder, How could Jesus’ followers in the early church find joy in being persecuted for their faith? And what kinds of persecution do Christians face in our world today?
As we can imagine, persecution was not something that Jesus’ followers wanted. But because they understood that Jesus is God and wants all of us to have full life forever with him, they were willing to stand against authorities who taught otherwise, even if that meant they would be persecuted and perhaps even executed for having faith in Jesus.
In some parts of the world today, Christians still face severe persecution and even death for their faith. And in other societies, where religious freedoms are allowed (as in North America), there can be subtle pressures and persecution as well for people who seek to live for Jesus.
If we seek to love everyone around us in Jesus’ name, if we mourn over brokenness, and we hunger and thirst for righteousness, and we aim to share God’s peace/shalom in every way, we are not going to fit in with the mainstream of society where we live. Persecution can arise wherever our values and lifestyle focus on Christ and contradict the mainstream. But in Jesus’ name we are encouraged to keep doing good so that others will see it and praise our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). Results like these brought Jesus’ followers joy, and we can experience that too.
Lord, help us to honor you in all we do, bringing praise to your name. Amen.
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