I don't know if you saw the articles in the papers this week about Senior bishops calling for an end to persecution of Christian's in Britain. Interestingly the bishops didn't actually use the word persecution in the letter they wrote to The Sunday Telegraph, they spoke instead of disrespect and discrimination, but the word stuck with me when I read these words from Jesus in my daily readings this week:
But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. (Luke 22:12)
I was also reminded of His words from the sermon on the mount:
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:10)
Now please hear me right. I'm not looking for persecution! I want to live a peaceful life where I get on with everyone and everyone likes me as much as you do. But that wasn't what Jesus ever promised us, or what the book of Acts or the rest of Christian history teaches us as the norm for Christians or for the church. Yes we should hope to be treated the same as everyone else, but need to recognise that we're in a spiritual battle and that if we're genuinely owning the name of Jesus we will never win any popularity contests. Whenever I meet with figures in the local community I'm always aware that the influence we have with them is as a result of what we do and has been earnt over many years of hard work, and not some inalienable right we have because we're Christians.
I'm not quite sure what I'm trying to say in all this. I certainly agree we should stand up for our rights and to be treated on a level playing field with everyone else. But I also think we need to have an expectation that persecution, and potentially things much worse than not being able to wear a cross at work, may be part of our future. Let's ready ourselves for whatever the future might hold, and be ready to embrace whatever God has in store for us, even if that included persecution.