“Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” -John 15:20
In The Cost of Discipleship (1937/1995), German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him to come and die.” Sometimes, as Western Christians, we imagine following Christ will mean a life full of material blessings like a warm house, hot food, and plenty of amenities. We expect our relationships will be conflict free and always rewarding, but that was never the message of Jesus. Indeed, this is the basic theology of the prosperity gospel.
In John 15:20, Jesus told his disciples that they could expect persecution, essentially saying, “I’ve been persecuted and you will be too. I am entrusting you with the message of life! You are privileged to carry my beautiful message of love, grace, and welcome, and still, people will mock you, persecute you, and maybe even kill you,” and we think, “Great! Sign me up!”
But Jesus also said, “If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” A life sown in the soil of suffering often produces gospel fruit. Where there are thorns, there are often magnificent blooms.
Jesus, I confess that when you say that persecution will come, I feel afraid and resistant, but I place my life in your hand. Use me to proclaim your true gospel, and may I be a conduit of your grace. Amen.