There is an old saying that goes, “No good deed deserves to go unpunished.” That certainly proved true in the lives of the disciples and the earlier followers of Jesus. Empowered by the Holy Spirit after Jesus’ ascension, they sought to carry on Jesus’ ministry. The early Christians shared the good news of God’s love and grace as it was revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. They also acted with care for each other and those in need. One writer at the time commented on the early Christians saying, “See how they love one another.” Still, the Christians were not without their enemies.
The early Christians refused to worship the Caesar as their lord and savior. This was considered treason. They refused to associate themselves with the pagan and idolatrous practices of the time. The lives they lived did not conform to the expectations of those around them—their families or friends. For this they were persecuted. They were shunned by society, imprisoned, tortured and executed by the government. Jesus assured his followers that when they did experience persecution for their faith God would be with them. They would never be alone.
There are times when we must act out of faith and make unpopular choices. As disciples of Jesus Christ we strive for justice and stand beside those who have been treated unfairly, marginalized or ignored by society. We seek peace through love in a world dominated by the thought that peace only comes through the exercise of power. We seek equality in a world that promotes selfishness and self-centeredness in place of service. Such stances are not popular and will bring both criticism and persecution. Like the disciples and early Christians, though, the Lord assures us that the Spirit will be with us and we will never be alone. Knowing this we continue boldly to carry out Jesus’ ministry.
“As for yourselves, beware; for they will hand you over to councils; and you will be beaten in synagogues; and you will stand before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them. And the good news must first be proclaimed to all nations. When they bring you to trial and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say; but say whatever is given you at that time, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”