Christians know to expect suffering and persecution. The formula is simple: If the perfect and sinless Son of God suffered persecution, so too will his imperfect and sinful followers. We are to be people who live in the world, but not of the world. We are to live among unbelieving people, but to live in a very different way. When we do this we are never far from some kind of persecution.
Still, there are a couple of ways we can insure ourselves against suffering.
The first way to avoid persecution is to live outside the world, to seclude ourselves away from it. If we do that, we will not suffer. We will not suffer because we will never come into contact with people who would persecute us. Our isolation will keep us far from their thoughts. But there is a high cost: It will also keep our faith and our Savior far from their thoughts.
There is a second way: to live in the world but to remain like the world. If we live just like the people around us, we will not suffer because there is nothing in us that stands out, nothing worth persecuting. And all the while our worldliness will contradict whatever we claim to be true about our faith and our Savior.
I appreciate how John Stott frames this. He says, “The first group escapes persecution by withdrawing from the world, the second group by becoming assimilated to the world.” It is just that simple. But God does not call us to either of those two extremes. Instead, he calls us to be salt and light, to plant ourselves in the midst of a watching world and, right there, to live very different lives. Some will see, and hear, and be persuaded. Many more will see, be convicted, and persecute. But as Christians we simply need to expect it: Persecution comes to those who are faithful.