When Jesus sent his disciples out into the towns, he warned them that persecution was waiting for them. They were going to be drug before courts, experience floggings in their synagogues, and were going to be dragged before governors and kings for Jesus’ sake. This was a very sobering thing to tell his brand-new disciples. Imagine, Jesus told his followers to leave everything behind, including jobs and family, and gave no timeline for how long they would be on the move.
Very shortly after they left everything, he split them up into groups and sent them out into towns, but with a very stern warning: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16 ESV). Then he warned them of the types of persecution they would encounter along the way. But then the warning gets worse: “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (vs. 21-22).
“Pastors resigning” is trending this week on social media because people are realizing how many preachers are leaving ministry this year due to, it is thought, the stresses of the pandemic. I’m seeing some of these people leaving ministry talk about their “persecution.” Trust that internal struggles, tensions, and even in-fighting is not the same as persecution. Jesus clearly defined persecution, and warned his disciples that they would face it immediately. This training proved to be very good, because the early church would face severe persecution and would thrive in that environment.
Perhaps we should better equip each other to face severe punishment. Traumatic experiences tend to cripple people today because forgiveness is used as a weapon, instead of teaching Christians to stand up to these evils of oppression and persecution.