Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.Matthew 5:10
Endure harmful pursuit for doing what’s right, and you will be blessed, having possession of the Kingdom of God.
Integrity involves standing up for what’s right, even while enduring hostile environments. In our day, the concept of persecution has been trivialized into essentially any notion of being ridiculed or spoken out against.
However, in biblical terms, the concept of persecution conveys the act of having to flee from those who are intent on injuring or even killing those who have opposing viewpoints.
In denouncing the corruption of the Jewish leaders, Yeshua foretold the horrendous actions they would perform on the “prophets, wise men, and scribes” that would be sent to continue to warn them of their wickedness:
Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets, wise men, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify; and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute [i.e., chase with intent to kill] from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zachariah son of Barachiah, whom you killed between the sanctuary and the altar. Most certainly I tell you, all these things will come upon this generation.Matthew 23:34-36
He also warned his followers that they would experience these things in standing for the truth of his words:
But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute [i.e., chase with intent to kill] you, delivering you up to synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for my name’s sake.Luke 21:12
History bears out that this is exactly what happened, and believers were hunted and rooted out of synagogues for believing in Messiah. They were scourged, stoned, imprisoned, and killed for maintaining the integrity of their faith.
This is a far cry from those today who claim persecution because of receiving negative comments on social media, or having others simply disagree with their views and call them names. While maintaining our integrity is still just as valuable in those situations, to claim those inconveniences as persecution is dishonoring our spiritual forebears who quite literally put their lives and the lives of their family members, their very daily existence, at risk because of their views of Messiah.
While there are areas of the world where legitimate persecution for the kingdom still exists, we can be truly thankful to God that in free societies our voices can be heard, and our lives are not daily in jeopardy for believing in, and sharing the light of, his Messiah.
This should motivate us all the more to demonstrate integrity by maintaining the truth of our faith in all of our words and actions, and in our relationships and interactions with those around us.