The Gospel according to Matthew (10:16-23)
Jesus said to his Apostles: “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves. But beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to another. Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”
Imagine yourself being a follower of Jesus at the time He was preaching. Imagine that there is much excitement about Him and great hopes that He will be the new King and is the Messiah. There is much hope and excitement about what is to come.
But then, out of the blue, Jesus gives this sermon. He says that His followers will be persecuted and scourged and that this persecution will continue over and over. Can you imagine being one of His followers? His followers would have stopped and seriously questioned Jesus and wonder if it was worth continuing to follow Him.
The persecution of Christians has been alive and well throughout the ages. It has happened in every time, every culture and setting imaginable. It continues to be alive today right in our midst. So what do we do with that? How do we respond?
Many Christians can fall into the trap of thinking that Christianity is all about simply “getting along.” It’s easy to believe that if we are loving and kind then everyone will also love us. But that’s not what Jesus said.
Jesus made it clear that persecution is going to be a part of the Church and that we should not be surprised when this happens to us. We should not be surprised when those within our culture step on us and act maliciously. When this happens it is easy for us to lose faith and to lose heart. We can get discouraged and feel like turning our faith into a hidden life we live. It’s hard to live our faith openly knowing that the culture and world does not like that and won’t accept it.
The examples are all around us. All we have to do is read the secular news to be made aware of a growing hostility toward the Christian faith. For that reason, we need to heed Jesus’ words today more than ever. We need to be aware of His warning and have hope in His promise that He will be with us and will give us the words to say when we need it. More than anything, this passage calls us to hope and confidence in our loving God.
How ready and willing are you to face the hostility of today’s world? Where are you going in life? Think about your response; strive today to have courage and strength to endure any and every persecution with the help, strength and wisdom of Christ.