Blessed are you when others 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 so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
The words above are straight out of the mouth of Jesus—straight out of the mouth of one who would himself suffer violence at the hands of others, expressly because He came from God, and they did not see it.
It is difficult for us to imagine a time in human history when people were being persecuted and executed on account of their faith in Jesus. Yet the early church suffered tremendously under the weight of imperial persecution. Often Christians found themselves under arrest for no other reason than that they were Christian. In most cases, our ancient brothers and sisters were given the opportunity to recant, to deny the faith. In many cases, they refused to do so. With that refusal came torture, public humiliation, and ultimately a painful and cruel death. Yet people continued to serve Jesus, and they continued to bear proudly the name “Christian.”
It is convicting to contemplate what it must have been like in those early centuries. When we consider it, most of us likely end up asking ourselves the question. “What would I have done if that had been me?” Surely we like to think that we, too, would stand firmly on our faith and face whatever was to come. But it is hard to know without actually having the opportunity to face such an extreme trial.
Yet we have opportunity every day to live for, speak for, and sacrifice for the same Jesus that these ancient martyrs professed. We may never have the chance to put our very lives on the line for Him, but we indeed have the chance each day we live to live in such a way that the prince of the world is defied, and God is honored.