”Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
The following is the final of a four part musing on the Beatitudes.
Today, cultural Christianity exhibits a phobia of suffering, especially for the name of Christ. American inclinations of Christianity are paved with prosperity and comfort. Blessedness is associated with easy-believism, a concept that embraces all the world has to offer while avoiding public proclamations of faith in Christ. Yielding to Jesus' Lordship is not a product of saving faith according to this false ideology.
Consequently, when comfort and perceived privileges are threatened, too many express anger and engage in chatter about individual entitlements…rights to engage physical violence against wrongdoers and rights to physically protect personal prosperity at all costs. Pride swells within the heart when contemplating the prospects of loss. However, these assumptions do not exist within the Kingdom of God. As we have seen so far in Jesus’ Beatitudes, humility is the exact opposite of what human tradition holds to be true.
Jesus and His Apostles convey to believers that we can expect to be persecuted for God’s righteousness (John 15:18-27, Philippians 1:29-30). This reminds us that our faith in Christ is not a private issue, but our love for Him and our obedience to Him are indeed public and obvious. His Lordship rules our lives.
Because of our allegiance to Christ, we share in His sufferings (1 Peter 4:12-14). How could it be any other way? In essence, the slave does not possess special worldly favor that the Master did not realize. The world hates everything about our Lord, even his followers.
Matthew 5:10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Jesus’ referral to righteousness in Matthew 5:10 is not linked to being a “good person". However, it has everything to do with being orientated toward God and His will. Those who yearn for the Lord’s righteousness live out a life that reaches for holiness and honors His commands. If one lives for Christ, that person will encounter persecution at some point in life (2 Timothy 3:12). Minimal persecution such as being ostracized for Christ is a guarantee, even in America.
Moreover, a life devoted to God’s righteousness is not obscured or placed in stealth mode. As Jesus states in Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
Matthew 5:11-12 "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
While there are various ways to suffer in the world, the persecution referred to by our sinless Savior is something in which He can personally identify. The blessedness Jesus speaks to in Matthew 5:11 is directly linked to being persecuted on His account. Christ was crucified because was the incarnate Son of God; He was hated without cause (John 15:18-27).
As prescribed by Christ Himself, the Christian response to persecution is love. Our Lord set the example as He was mocked, spat on, and eventually crucified. The believer's duty is to love enemies even through affliction contrived by the world (Luke 6:27-28). Glorifying God in our suffering demands exhibiting love and self-control.
Further, the Apostle Peter reminds us that suffering with Christ is not linked to sin (1 Peter 4:12-19). Peter explains that various sins and meddling in the affairs of others can lead to persecution that is not associated with loving Jesus. Christians are to refrain from these types of activities. If we suffer for Christ, it will be for His name and His righteousness. We are not ashamed, but we are glad to suffer for God's glory.
For his part, the Apostle Paul’s motivation for suffering was to benefit Christ’s church. Paul also pointed to the inner comfort the Holy Spirit provides to persecuted believers. He conveyed to the Corinthian church that while their sufferings in Christ were in abundance, so also they had comfort in abundance through Christ (2 Corinthians 1:5).
In the same way the early church rejoiced in persecution, we should embrace it as it brings about perseverance, character, and hope (Romans 5:3-11). If we suffer for Christ, we know that we are His, and our inheritance is extraordinary. Trials for Christ’s name in the temporal world are trivial compared to the eternal radiance of His shared glory (1 Peter 1:6-9). As Jesus indicates, our reward in heaven will be great!
Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life w for My sake will find it."
"Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way."
“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who are abusive to you.”
“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, 'They HATED ME WITHOUT A CAUSE.' "When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 1:5
For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.
From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus.
For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in ah Christ’s afflictions.
2 Timothy 3:12
Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We count those blessed who endured.
1 Peter 1:6-9
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 4:12-19
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE godless MAN AND THE SINNER? Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.