While we can discuss persecution on a global, social justice scale, it also speaks to the personal. If we’ve begun to discern God’s voice in our lives, if we’ve begun to turn our lives towards that voice, we are bound to be persecuted. Family, friends, and even acquaintances get accustomed to us living in accordance with their needs, their wishes, their vision of who we should be (and from that, who they are). When we deviate from that “norm”, persecution begins. You’re upsetting the status quo, which can generate a number of reactions, including but certainly not limited to passive aggressive behavior, snide remarks, more obvious responses like anger or disappointment or hurt feelings.
Another translation of “blessed are those who are persecuted” is “blessed are those who pursue righteousness”, or living right with God. According to Jesus, when you do that, you inherit the kingdom of heaven. While we might hope that our alignment with God’s purpose would spread good will and inspiration, not all will cheer. (Anyone who’s ever lived through the division of a parent or grandparent’s estate knows how fraught with tension inheritances are). Living right with God has devastated friendships, marriages, families. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore what we feel inside to be true (clarify it…keep checking in with God through prayer…but don’t walk away solely because the world’s uncomfortable with your choice).
Mary Oliver’s poem The Journey speaks to this. It begins:
One day you finally knew/What you had to do, and began,/Though the voices around you/Kept shouting/Their bad advice –
Get comfortable with persecution in all its forms, and keep on walking. You may very well be on the right path, and the kingdom of heaven is already yours.