But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. Acts 14:19-23.
Here’s that persecution that Jesus promised. We seldom see this, but we also seldom see this level of obedience to preach the Gospel and advance the kingdom of God. At least, we don’t see it in America. In other countries there is plenty of persecution and martyrdom, which tells me they must be doing something right, even if all they are doing is being recognizable.
How do you identify a Christian in America? Is it by what he does, or does not do? Whatever you do, if it is recognizable that you believe in Jesus, it will set you apart. It will make you a target. But that is what we are called to do. You may think that the free exercise of your religion is merely attending church. But that was never commanded. Preaching and teaching and bearing witness to the Gospel is commanded. And that can get you in trouble, if you do it right.