Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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"Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial that is to try you,
as though some strange thing happened to you."
Peter, 1Peter 4:12
"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man."
Paul, 1Corinthians 10:13
If we live a righteous life, we will suffer persecution at the hands of those who are not-at least not yet-wise and good. And yet, this world hates godliness to such an extent that even before someone actually begins to live a godly life, even at the point when he merely begins to feel an inner longing for godliness, the world will persecute him. In order to be misunderstood and persecuted in some measure, all you really have to do is have an inner hunger for righteousness; immediately, you will begin to feel the world's displeasure. So, all who desire to please the Lord have something to overcome, whether they have been born again or are just on the way to it. Paul warned Timothy that "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2Tim. 3:12). This warning applies both to born-again people and to those people who as yet only desire to be born again.
When a child of God begins to learn the truth of Christ and to hear things that come from outside the darkness of Christianity, the resistance begins. If he is attracted to the liberty and love that the truth brings, he will meet with stiff opposition to his new thoughts and feelings. Those still in the grip of the darkness of Christianity, including the many precious children of God who have not yet obeyed God's call to come out, will oppose the shining light, thinking that it is something else. "Indeed, the hour is coming", said Jesus, "when everyone who kills you will assume that he is performing a religious duty for God."
In consideration of this unchanging reality, I suppose that one of the first things we should tell those who hear the message that Jesus has graciously given to us is that they must expect to be misunderstood, and that they should expect unkind reactions to what they are learning, especially from zealous Christians. This is how Jesus started working with Paul. While young Paul was in Damascus, blind and afraid, and waiting for further instructions from the Lord, Jesus was speaking in a vision to a godly man, Ananias, concerning him. This is part of what Jesus told Ananias: "He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake" (Acts 9:15-16).
So, Jesus let Paul know from the first that he would suffer for the truth he would receive. So will you, whoever you are who sincerely desires to do the will of God. Understand that the rejection and criticism from others that you will suffer is not a mark of shame; it is evidence that you have found the right way. There is no way to escape the hatred of this world if you receive the love of God. Do not back down. Go for it, and be happy that you have been chosen.
We are encouraged by Paul's grand exhortation to Timothy: "If we suffer [with him], we shall reign with him." I should add to those words of wisdom that, since everyone who desires to live a godly life will suffer persecution, then if we are not persecuted, it can only be that the world is pleased with us because we do not truly desire to live a godly life.
We have but two choices: Either we love righteousness, suffer for it now, and live forever, or we refuse to love righteousness, live without persecution now, and be damned in the end. These are our only two choices because of the nature of this intensely wicked world, and because of the perfect, holy justice of our God. If we are ever granted the honor of living in eternal communion with God's holy saints who faithfully endured cruel suffering and even death for their love of righteousness, we must show ourselves to be of like faith: determined, regardless of this world's reaction, to desire the righteousness of God above this world's approval or pleasures.