Jesus and his disciples were heading towards Jerusalem. On the way he warned them of persecution that was to come: “All nations will hate you because you are my followers. But everyone who endures to the end will be saved.”
They continued walking and arrived in the Gilan Province of Iran. They walked up to the courthouse, and Jesus turned to them and said, “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God. Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.”
They went on their way and came to Pyongyang, North Korea. As they passed by an underground church, Jesus said, “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.”
They walked on to Nigeria, stopping in village after village where many had recently been martyred. Jesus encouraged the people there, then turning to his disciples said, “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith. For you will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God.
“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
My great-grandfather was an Armenian pastor murdered by Turkish Muslims for his faith. In the face of persecution, how significant the words of Jesus must have been to him!
In my super-safe-suburban-bubble, I don’t even fully grasp them. Yet I still hold back and complain and think, “these words of Jesus are too hard. Who can take them literally? Surely what he really means is…”
What words of Jesus do you tend to ignore?
What commands do you think are just too hard to follow?
Do you think believers in persecuted countries have an advantage over us? How so?