Sermon: Persecuted for Christ
Scripture: Matthew 5:10-12
In this week’s lessons, we learn that persecution is to be expected when we live a distinctively Christian life after the pattern of our Lord.
Theme: Persecuted for Being Like Christ
Well, then, if the verse does not mean being persecuted for being objectionable, or doing wrong, or being fanatical, or endorsing a cause, what does it mean? What does it mean to be persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for Christ’s sake? Simply put, it means to be persecuted for being like the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Jesus said that those who are persecuted for being like him will be happy. What is more, those who are like him will always be persecuted.
When Jesus came into the world in his righteousness he exposed the evil of the world, and men hated him for it. Before Christ came, men could get away with hypocrisy, lying, dishonesty, selfishness, greed, and a long list of other vices. And they could excuse themselves by pointing out that other men were like themselves and that they were better in some of these respects than others. After Christ had come, all of these vices were revealed for what they were, just as the filth of a sewer is revealed by thrusting a strong light into one of its openings. Men hated the exposure of their inner hearts and natures, and they killed Christ for exposing them. In a similar way, they will hate any exposure of their evil nature that comes from the evidences of the righteousness of Christ in his followers. That is why Jesus said, “The servant is not greater than his Lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also….If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin; but now they have no cloak for their sin. He that hateth me hateth my Father also” (John 15:20-23).
Let me ask this question: Is there anything in your conduct that reveals Christ’s righteousness? Is Jesus Christ seen in your character? Oh, I know that we are living in a country that has adopted many Christian values, tolerance being among them, and so has risen to a level where persecutions are not likely to be what they were in the early Christian centuries. But it is also true, I fear, that much of our Christianity has sunk to a level where it is hardly noticed. The world has become tolerant of us; but we have become far more tolerant of the world. And there is sometimes precious little visible of true Christian character.
Have you ever put the principles of Christ’s righteousness into action in your home, your job, or your business? You might say, “I’m up against a situation in my factory that is so rotten and has been going on so long, that if I did the righteous thing I’d be fired.” A man came to Tertullian once, and he had exactly that problem. His business interests had been conflicting with his loyalty to Jesus Christ. He told of the problems, and he ended by saying, “What can I do? I must live.” “Must you?” said Tertullian. If it came to a choice between righteousness and a livelihood in Tertullian’s day, the believer was expected to choose righteousness.
Explain what it means to be persecuted for righteousness’ sake.
How did Jesus expose the world’s unrighteousness when he came?
Application: How can you reflect Christ’s righteousness before an unrighteous world?