Romans 8:16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Matt. 5: 10 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Suffering is not something that we are generally gravitating toward. Especially in America, we like our lives to be easy and free from suffering at almost any cost. We don't mind working hard and we will work hard so that when we are not working we can have an easy, entertained lifestyle.
But what are Jesus and Paul saying here? Suffering and persecution are not high on our list, but it certainly looks like they are saying that if we don't suffer and are not persecuted, for righteousness, we are not going to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.
Does all suffering and persecution look the same? For sure it can have many different forms and have many different levels of intensity. In America, today, it would not look the same as it did in the early Church, but we can still have it. We must remember that Jesus did not say that we would just be persecuted and that would be enough to get us to Heaven. We will be persecuted for righteousness sake; not for a cause, or for our own foolish choices or because we are doing wrong, but because we are righteous.
Suffering and persecution for righteousness requires a serious level of righteousness. There are many very nice people who make being around them a joy. We should be like that. Jesus is not telling us to be self righteous and call out every person's sin around us the moment we see it. Though He does call us to judge our own fruit and the fruit of others.
A righteous life if difficult for the unrighteous to be around. Misery loves company and sinners love to hang out with sinners. Darkness and light can not dwell in the same place. When we are righteous there should be a kind of repelling effect of the unrighteous and that will cause them to persecute us. Jesus came to bring a dividing sword; to put a brother against his brother and families will be divided because of the Gospel being lived out and talked about; because of our righteous conduct.
Talk about your own struggle with sin, talk about freedom in Christ to be His slave, don't do the same things you used to do, because now you are trying to live a more righteous life. You don't need to throw that in anyone's face, but when we are different from the world they will start to talk, and it will not always be "good", but if we are being persecuted for righteousness, it will be good.
We must try to be winsome in our righteousness, but we must be righteous. We must not try to avoid suffering and persecution at all costs, but really we should relish it when it comes, as this is further proof of our righteous living and also brings assurance of salvation. God won't give us anything we can't handle, so we should be joyful in our suffering and persecution.
This has not been my normal thought process, but God can change a thick rock heart like mine and He can change yours as well.