Jesus said: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Persecution involves the sacrifice of well-being, which encompasses the loss of the esteem of others that can accompany, perhaps, oft (always?) attends standing in a committed place.
As a Christian, for me, that place of commitment is the cross. For as Jesus said: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”(1)
For many years, this has been my life’s mantra: When I know that for which, in the name of love and justice, I will dare to die, then I will know how to dare to live.
Over the years, the more I read and reflected on the Jesus-story as presented in the biblical gospel accounts, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the more I identified Jesus as the incarnation or embodiment of love and justice; unconditional and willful (that is, active) generosity and impartiality for and with all people at all times.
As a follower of Jesus, I claim love and justice as my chiefest values, which I, too, seek in my living (my thinking and feeling, intending and acting) to offer to others.
In so doing, I have come to this committed place: In being willing to die (whether, metaphorically, in yielding to another on principle or lowering my defenses to listen and to understand and, at times, to accept another’s view of truth or, literally, being prepared to lay down my life), I can live fully, free from attachments to the trappings of this world, including my innate trust in my own wisdom and perspective on what is real and, ultimately, my life.
Despite all of this, because the idea, let alone the reality of persecution being a state of blessing is so contrary to my human reason, I have another view of its meaning.
Persecution is a condition, a state of life of the powerless. For it is those in power who, striving to defend their privileges, employ all the forces at their disposal to intimidate those who, in the name of equality, would seek to share the wealth of advantage and opportunity.
To stand on the side of the powerless is to risk persecution. I do not like, much less do I love to suffer. However, I believe that there is a sacred peace that comes from speaking for those who cannot speak. For, as God is a God of love and justice, to do so, inherently, is to give voice to what is true and right and good and holy, which is the kingdom of heaven.
I’ll die for that, for God knows I’ve oft lived for less.
(1) Luke 9.23-24