Some of us are good at getting in trouble for saying what others do not want to hear. Ed, my old neighbour in Saskatchewan, has the misconception that it is all about agreement and harmony in a church congregation. He thinks of Christians as united voicing Bible verses like John 3:16 or speaking the Lord’s Prayer in unison.
Division, not unity, is a significant theme in the Bible. I told Ed about the prophet Jeremiah from the Old Testament, who was persecuted for saying what God told him to speak to the people. As a prophet of God, Jeremiah,was opposed for saying what people did not want to hear from God. Lies and gossip may be more popular than the truth.
“Why is it that some people, like you, tell people what they don’t want to hear?” Ed asked me. He was quick to point out I was offensive to him when I told him it was dangerous to his health to smoke. He said some people like me never mind their own business when it comes to other people.
I agreed with him that I did warn him about his smoking habit. Yes, it was his personal choice. I could have respected his right to smoke as he pleased. I told Ed he could believe I was offensive or that I was trying to discourage him from risk to his health. I conceded to him, I was off-putting, but that smoking is a risky habit. To me, lung cancer, often the result of smoking, can be prevented by not smoking. “Should I shut up or speak up about what is harmful to others?” I asked Ed. Ed answered that I should shut up if it involves him. He wanted to ignore the truth about smoking.
God called and appointed Jeremiah as His prophet to His people. God’s people and other religious leaders did not like what Jeremiah said from God. The temple's chief official had Jeremiah beaten and put in stocks to pressure him to shut up. Many of the prophets of God in the Old Testament received reproach, ridicule, mocking, and even death for speaking up. Jesus was also persecuted for saying and doing what other religious leaders and people rejected.
As Christians, Jesus warns us that saying and living what Jesus said and did will result in our persecution. We will be persecuted because, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher and the servant like his master.” Jesus warned his disciples that if they have called him Beelzebub, or Satan, how much more will they malign them.
Jesus warned his disciples that they should not fear persecution for speaking His words. They will prove true even if those offended by them reject them. Jesus and his words are meant for the good of others, even if they sting. Persecution, beatings, being placed in jail, or fed to lions will harm or kill your body, but it is God who saves your souls for heaven, not other people. We fear others and things we cannot control, but God is to be feared above all else.