I don’t really cherish the promise of 2 Timothy 3:12. On the one hand, I don’t want it to happen. That seems bad. On the other hand, if it doesn’t happen, I wonder if I’m bad. The verse is sobering: “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” This is one of those Bible promises that doesn’t make it into the flower-covered book for graduates.

Granted, there is a danger that some Christians do all they can to invite “persecution.” Thy refuse to accommodate–ever. They live to find hills to die on. They lead with their chins. They wear every bit of opposition as a badge of honor. The world hates them and they love it.

But for most Christians, there is another danger, the danger of thinking that if we clean up our image, smooth out the edges of our faith, change a few songs, do a few good deeds, then we can get people to think well of us. Sometimes we act like God has promised that if we do the right thing, with the right heart, and say things with the right attitude, then the world will stop choking on the church.

But God makes no such promise.

What he does promise is that if our singular aim is to live a godly life in Christ Jesus, if our goal every morning is to follow Jesus, if our first priority is to walk in God’s way and believe his word, we will be persecuted. We act like persecution is the one thing God would never require of the sincere Christian, when actually it’s one of the sure things he promises.

Our fear of persecution–and it’s my fear too–our refusal to even consider it an option, can prevent us from being obedient in a whole host of areas. Maybe it’s going overseas, or letting your kids go to some war-torn country. Maybe its sharing your faith or letting on at work that you’re a Christian. Maybe you are hesitating to become a Christian for fear of family and friends. Maybe you are worried you’ll disappoint your home country if you join a church. Maybe you are hesitant about homosexuality or caving on creation because you don’t want to be ridiculed. Maybe living a godly life in Christ Jesus will mean a lower GPA for you or getting passed over for a promotion. Maybe it means being overlooked, under-appreciated, and misunderstood. Or maybe, persecution means you lose your life, or worse, the lives of those you love.

2 Timothy 3:12 is a scary verse because it is a divine guarantee. It will happen. And considering whom the guarantee is for, the second half of the verse is even scarier if it doesn’t happen.