Blessed… The Persecuted

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 5:10-12, New Revised Standard Version).

In the past month I have heard three people talk about how persecuted Christians are in the United States. In every case the person claiming persecution was talking about how Christian business owners were being “persecuted” because they did not want to do something that went against their Christian beliefs. In one case it was providing birth control to employees. In another it was providing medical benefits to a gay person’s unmarried partner. I didn’t hear all of the third situation but I do know it was an issue involving Christian social values. In each case the Christian stood alone against the world.

Also in each case, the person making the argument said the person involved was “being persecuted” (please note, I am not saying the person who actually had the problem was claiming persecution). Persecution? Really? Give me a break and give it a rest. This IS NOT persecution. If you want to argue discrimination on the grounds of religious freedoms, I can agree, but not persecution.

When Christians are literally losing their heads to people of non-Christian faiths in other parts of the world, what Christians face in the United States today is mild by comparison. I am not saying it is right, I am saying it is mild. It could even be that there are cases of religious persecution in the United States. Anything is possible. What I am saying is, cases like those I outlined above and cases that have been front and center in the news in the past few years are not cases of persecution. I believe discrimination is present and the government has not only turned a blind eye to those who are experiencing the discrimination, they have been party to it.

When we claim persecution in these relatively trivial matters, we make light of what people who are truly persecuted experience. When people experience brutal torture and even death for their faith, that is persecution. When a parent has to watch a child die because the parent claimed Christ, that is persecution. Our experience is rarely, if ever their experience.

The world Jesus walked in, the world Jesus preached to in the Sermon on the Mount was a world where people of faith was a world of persecution. Jesus experienced persecution. For generations after the death and resurrection of Jesus, that world experienced persecution. To place our troubles in the same thoughts as these people, many of the martyrs for the faith, shows many of us truly have no idea what it means to experience persecution.

We live in a world that is decidedly not Christian. Scripture makes it clear, we will experience times where the world will go against us. For many in the world, it will mean persecution. For most of us in the west it is really discrimination. We shouldn’t be surprised by it. Christianity at its most basic has been a counter-cultural movement. The culture will always be at odds to some degree with matters of faith. We are called to live by faith anyway.

Perhaps people are quick to claim persecution because of the promise made to the persecuted, “…theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” We want to inherit the kingdom of heaven. We needn’t worry. Acceptance to the kingdom is not based on being persecuted. It isn’t based on discrimination. It is really based on one simple thing, faith in Jesus Christ. For that, we can all be thankful. Though it may mean discrimination and for some even persecution. We keep living the faith. That is what matters.

How can you continue living out the faith in ways that show the world what really matters?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Peace,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Author:

"The Pastor Ponders" is my attempt to share some of my thoughts. I often share what I am thinking with my dog "Bishop," but he keeps his thoughts to himself. He will even go to sleep sometimes while I am sharing my thoughts with him. The truth is, if it doesn't involve getting his ears scratched, his belly rubbed or some kind of treat, he really doesn't care. I will say this for him, he never argues with me or tells me I am wrong. So, I decided to share some of my thoughts with whoever might come across this blog in their ramblings around the Internet. Bishop and I live in Sweeny, Texas where I am the pastor of First United Methodist Church. I have served here for the past two years. For the past 27 years I have served United Methodist congregations throughout East Texas including rural Madison County (Elwood UMC), Lovelady (First UMC) and Kennard (Center Hill UMC), Canton (First UMC), rural Smith County (Mt. Sylvan UMC and Union Chapel UMC), Grapeland (First UMC), Tyler (Pleasant Retreat UMC), Santa Fe (Aldersgate UMC), Freeport (First UMC) and Oyster Creek (Oyster Creek UMC), Diboll (First UMC), and now Sweeny (First UMC). My wife Cindy and I have been married for over 40 years. We have two grown sons. Wayne and his wife Nikki and all our grandsons (Kaleb, Noah, and Jaxon) live in Southern California. Christopher and his wife Morgan and both our granddaughters (Jenna and Natalie) live in Tyler Texas. I enjoy preaching and all aspects of preaching from research to writing to the actual preaching event. I also love writing, reading, playing the guitar as well as a bit of drawing. I have spent quite a bit of time over the past two years working with paracord on various projects, mostly prayer ropes I usually give away. I sing bass with a local barbershop chorus called The Coastalaires. I have also recently begun doing a little wood carving. I also enjoy playing with Bishop, something he likes a great deal better than listening to my thoughts. I hold an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Data Processing, specializing in Microcomputers from San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in History from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, a Master of Divinity from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and a Doctor of Ministry from Carolina University of Theology. When I was a student at Carolina, the school was in Iron Station North Carolina. They have since relocated to Manassas Virginia (Yeah, go figure, a school named Carolina geographically in Virginia). This blog is mostly devotional writing, but there are other things here too. Just about every week I will either post my sermon manuscript or a video of the worship service. On occasion, I will post something I see in society. Occasionally I write a short story, a poem, or a song and will post it here too. I will say this, my motivations for writing this blog are really selfish. I write it to get what I am thinking out of my head and onto something a bit more permanent. They say, after all, once something is on the internet it never really goes away. Still, I hope you enjoy reading it. And, should you desire, you can one-up Bishop and actually tell me what you think. Who knows, it might generate a bit of discussion between you and me and anyone else who might make their way here. With Joy and Thankfulness, Keith Sweeny, Texas May 2018

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