11Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
However, in the first centuries A.D., in the pagan Roman Empire, living out the righteous Christian life placed one in radical conflict with the dominant religious practices, cultural norms and political realities. For example, to claim Christ as LORD could be, and was interpreted as a challenge to the Roman Emperor’s position as a deity. Again, the Lord’s Supper was interpreted as a monstrous rite of cannibalism. Worship of a crucified “loser” in a culture that revered great victors was viewed as beyond strange.
The consequences for early Christians varied from social disapproval to mass martyrdom. Christians were sent to their deaths in the coliseums as fodder for wild animals or burned alive for the entertainment of the pagan population.
Unfortunately, the violent, deadly persecution of Christians today is even worse in terms of numbers than it was two thousand years ago. If you pay attention to news from countries around the world with Christian minorities, you will quickly come face to face with the terrible facts of persecution because of faith in Christ.
Although we may live in societies in which the residue of Christian ethos prevails, it often doesn’t prevail in practice in our institutions. We should be very concerned if no one in the organizations in which we operate, be they for work or pleasure, has ever found us objectionable because of our distinctive Christian ethic. For to conform yourself to Christ is to stand against the passions that are given free sway in those who have conformed themselves to the world.
Finally, it simply must be pointed out that this sure saying of Christ is in complete opposition to that dark blot on Christian teaching known as “prosperity theology.” Most of us have seen it in its grossest form on the television, where some slick, shifty televangelist seeks to fleece the gullible with the promise of a ten-fold return from god for their generosity.
Unfortunately, this blight insidiously creeps into even the most well founded theological lives of the well off. It slithers in when thoughts of having been so blessed are connected with our own talents and hard work. It sneaks in when we tisk, tisk about the incompetence of other’s efforts as compared to our own. In short, our own prosperity can so easily become an idol at which we worship our own selves. My God deliver us from evil.