10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Many presentations of the gospel of Jesus Christ sell it as a way to escape your earthly troubles, suggesting that once you receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior, all will be well. Most of us at some point have tried selling our faith by highlighting the culturally positive aspects of following Christ while diminishing the price to be paid. These techniques are used in spite of overwhelming Scriptural claims of the exact opposite, like we read in the passage at hand.
The early verses in Matthew 5 are called the Beatitudes, and they open Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5-7 is one of the longest discourses from Jesus we have in Scripture, and it forms the basis for living an authentic Christian life. Jesus gives a series of declarations that begin with “Blessed are…” These however are the opposite of what most of us think of as being blessed—poor in spirit, mourning, humble, etc. He concludes this opening section by saying we are blessed when we are persecuted for righteousness—when we are insulted and lied about because we are living faithfully and are promoting God’s truth.
Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 3:17 that not all persecution is because of righteousness. “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” Much of the time we suffer because we turn to our own desires, or we express our opinions rather than the Truth. However, sometimes we express Truth, but we do it in abrasive and abusive ways, and then we are hurt when the responses are returned in kind. We often like to think ourselves as the martyr in these cases, particularly on social media, when in reality we are just being a jerk.
I asked the gentleman who mans the self-checkout at a grocery store in our community how he has been treated by the customers during the pandemic. Despite being in a “Christian” culture here in Tennessee, his comment was this: “There are a lot of people in this town who have never been told no.” He told me some of their responses had been less than friendly. He even had a large pack of paper towels hurled at him when he told a customer they could only buy one so there would be enough for others. As Christians, we sometimes conform the Truth to fit us rather than letting it do the hard work of conforming us to the gospel of Jesus Christ. When that happens, we can end up like the customer with his attitude and his paper towels.
When we present the Truth in Love, we still may be persecuted. Living life according to holy standards is counter-cultural, and often it can be deemed hateful or backward. People are offended when you tell them they are not god! The implication is they can’t do what they want to do, when and how they want to do it—and they find that offensive.
But Jesus said we are actually blessed when we face this persecution. Often the expressions of anger against us indicate the person is aware of the Truth we represent. I have personally seen this expressed anger and angst resolve into gospel conversations and eventually salvation. This is a wonderful demonstration of the Spirit’s work in and through our perseverance.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- Reflecting on ways you have recently been persecuted, have they been because of righteousness? If they are not, repent, reconcile, and let the Spirit tend your soul. If they are, you are blessed!
- What are ways we can love others through our perseverance in persecution? We are told to love our enemies, to seek their good. That in and of itself is one of the aspects of this blessing: the opportunity to serve those who especially need to encounter Christ-like love.
Pray for Amy and her family, serving with Living Hope in South Africa. We can entrust our lives to God—Amy never would have envisioned the adventure God has written into her story. Pray for courage to more deeply entrust your family’s story to Him.