Grace For The Journey
Let’s look together at the eighth and final Beatitude from Jesus, found in Matthew 5, verses 10 and 11 where He says: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
This last “blessed are” or Beatitude, a word that means “favored by God” is as surprising as the others. Those who are blessed by God are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake. They will inherit the kingdom of heaven. This is not what we would normally expect. Why would Jesus include this as a mark of the true believer? After all, one who is humble, meek, merciful, hunger and thirst after righteousness, and is a peacemaker wouldn’t be or our list of the most likely to be persecuted. Yet, Jesus says that persecution is as much a mark of the Christian as is purity of heart, being merciful, or being a peacemaker. The Apostle Paul explains this to Timothy as the Holy Spirit led him to write in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
Most of us will not be particularly thrilled about this news. “Revile” is a term that means “to be insulted.” “Persecute” is a term that describes what happens when reviling turns to action. Living a life that leads people to speak evil about us and to stir up hatred against us is not an appealing prospect, but Jesus says that when that happens to us, we are blessed and ought to rejoice and be glad in it.
How can we do this?
The only way we can is if
We have a different view of life.
When we understand and believe that this world and all that is in it is not our home, but instead, we look forward to the promise that we will see God and live forever in His kingdom, then we are strengthened to face what may come because our motivation is different. If we are one of God’s children, our hearts will be set on eternity, not the things of this world. We will seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness, not the rewards of this world which are passing away. We look to the things unseen which are more real than the things seen in this world. It’s a completely different motivation that drives us, and because it is, we can stand in the face of persecution in this world that rejects God.
When our hearts are set on eternity, the persecution in this world we may face doesn’t much matter. As Luther writes in his great hymn “A Mighty Fortress,” we can let “goods and kindred go” because “God’s truth abideth still; His kingdom is forever.” So, with this perspective, let’s look more closely at Jesus’ words.
Why are the disciples of Christ persecuted?
Let’s begin by understanding what Jesus is not saying. He is not saying that we are blessed by suffering for the sake of unrighteousness. Christians can suffer for poor decisions, either before or after being saved that can result in self-inflicted suffering. A sinful habit, a DUI arrest, an indictment or conviction of a felony crime, a damaged or lost relationship; all of the consequences of these or other poor decisions can continue to haunt a Christians for many years. That is not the kind of suffering that Jesus is speaking about in verse 10. There is no virtue in suffering as a murderer or as a gossip and meddler. While Christians are forgiven, the consequences of poor decisions can continue to cause suffering.
Jesus is also not saying that blessings come to those who are persecuted for their self-righteousness. Self-righteousness is when we act prideful, when we display a judgmental attitude toward others, or lack tact or sensitivity in what we say. People will push back against those who act in like that and the suffering that results is not the suffering that is “blessed.”
In the same way as self-righteousness, non-righteousness in the form on non-conformity is also not blessed. When people reject the societal standards of morality and civility and imagine they are taking a stand for individual expression or freedom to be who they want to be, they are acting in non-righteous ways. When the eyebrows are raised against the way they speak, dress or act, it’s not persecution for righteousness, it’s persecution for being uncivil. Jesus says that is not what God blesses.
What Jesus is saying is that the suffering that is “blessed” and “rewarded” is that which comes from and is endured for the sake of true righteousness.
So, if these are not the forms of “righteousness” that Jesus says God will bless, what are those things that are righteous that can cause the persecution that leads to God’s blessing? We will save that answer for tomorrow.
This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”