(Jesus said:) “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 5:10-11 (NRSV)
As a frequent recipient of a good deal of bullying at the hands of my peers when I was a child, I have a difficult time with seeing persecution (which is a form of bullying) as a positive thing.
But persecution can be considered a blessing- if it comes about for the right reasons.
Granted, I was bullied because I was small, sickly, near sighted, strange looking, had very bad coordination, and didn’t always have the best wardrobe. Those weren’t very good reasons for bullying, but then kids can be cruel. Anyone different than the norm is automatically a target, and I was a particularly easy target because no one would defend me.
If anything experiencing persecution requires one to think about the reasons why. Are some people jealous of the peace and hope that we have in Christ? Are we sometimes targets for others’ vitriol and poor attempts at humor because we don’t exactly conform to the world’s standards?
As a Jesus follower, being persecuted or mocked for our faith may be evidence that we’re “doing it right.”
This doesn’t mean that we are supposed to sit back and be doormats, or to get thrown head first into bushes or trash cans and do nothing about it. Self defense, and the defense of others is a basic human right. It does mean that we are called to have God’s beautiful attitudes in the face of persecution anyway, even if we get made fun of or much worse, for living them out.
It also means that we are called to speak out against injustice. When we know how it feels to be persecuted, we see God’s heart towards others who are living with persecution. We are more compelled to speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves, to defend the innocent and the suffering, and to work to end the systems that make persecution possible.