Reasons to “Leap for Joy” During Persecution

24 Aug

As one who admittedly still experiences a twinge of anxiety when studying Scripture, praying, or sharing the Gospel in public (on account of my fear of man), I found the following statement in Luke 6:22-23 by Jesus puzzling, encouraging, and emboldening:

22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy…”

When I think of suffering persecution and ridicule for the sake of Christ and the gospel, one of the last things I associate with that is rejoicing and leaping for joy. And yet, this is exactly what our Lord commands us to do – “Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy…”

But, almost as if foreseeing our confusion (and subsequent hesitation), Jesus doesn’t simply stop at giving the command; but he goes further and gives two reasons as to why we can and should obey the command to rejoice and leap for joy in the midst of persecution. He continues by saying:

“… for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.”

So, Jesus gives two reasons:

(1) In Christ, we have a greater reward: “…for behold, your reward is great in heaven…”

As those who have placed our trust in Christ, we know that this world is not the end. We have been “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:3-5).

Therefore, as Christians, even now, we no longer have to hold on so aggressively to things that have no eternal value (e.g. physical comfort, reputation, etc.). But rather, we can give all of these things up because, in Christ, we have been freely given  all things – not least of which includes the love and acceptance of a holy God. 

(2) We can know we’re on the right track: “… for so their fathers did to the prophets.”

You know you’re doing something right when the unbelieving world ridicules you and persecutes you on account of Christ and the gospel. In fact, Jesus overtly says only a few verses later that something is terribly wrong when the world doesn’t have anything bad to say about you (Lk. 6:26).

John Calvin, in his commentary on this passage, writes: “We cannot be Christ’s soldiers on any other condition, than to have the greater part of the world rising in hostility against us, and pursuing us even to death. The state of the matter is this: Satan, the prince of the world, will never cease to fill his followers with rage, to carry on hostilities against the members of Christ.

This is how it’s always been and this is how it’s going to be until Christ returns. Contrary to what is espoused by much of Americanized Christianity, it is actually normal and natural to be persecuted on account of Christ. Therefore, we too, can take comfort in the fact that if and when we suffer ridicule or persecution for the sake of Christ and the gospel, we are on the right track.

So, the next time that we feel anxious about suffering ridicule or persecution on account of Christ, we can meditate on these two glorious reasons that our Lord has given us to rejoice and leap for joy in the midst of persecution.

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