As we near the end of our journey through the Beatitudes, here is our path so far:
Poor in spirit / destitute (v. 3) -> mourning over our sin / broken (v. 4) -> meekness / empty (v. 5) -> hunger & thirst for righteousness -> fulfillment / satisfaction (v.6) -> merciful to others (v. 7) -> pure in heart (v. 8) -> peacemaker (v. 9)
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
(Matthew 5:10 NIV)
God’s Word is often filled with paradoxes. This is clearly one of them. Who, in their logical thinking would claim that someone could be blessed by being persecuted? They seem like polar opposites, diametrically opposed to one another.
My approach to this verse is not to justify Jesus’ saying, nor to disprove it, but simply to understand and apply it. If I have truly made Him my Teacher, then I must be teachable as His student.
So where do we begin? First, let’s remember, we live in the greatest love story, set in the fiercest battle. Jesus warned His disciples of the upcoming battle after He left the earth, in John chapter 16. Jesus summed it up at the end:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33 NIV)
Paul reminds the church in Ephesus of this epic battle for our hearts and minds:
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
(Ephesians 6:12 NIV)
Paul also reiterates this to Timothy:
“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…”
(2 Timothy 3:12 NIV)
Notice that Jesus qualified His blessing for those who are persecuted – “because of righteousness”. Jesus reminds His disciples that the context of His blessing is that of a clear conscience and a pure heart. If we are persecuted for doing wrong, that’s on us, not on God – we can’t claim His blessing for our sin.
So how should we respond to this persecution? The book of 1 Peter is written to encourage Christ-followers to keep focused on Christ, to stand firm in our faith. You can read it here.
And what is the reward for enduring this persecution? Jesus circles around to the same promise He started with: the Kingdom of Heaven. If you missed the start of this series, you can see the Kingdom of Heaven described here.
And that, my friends, is the good news that Jesus was preaching:
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 4:17b NIV)
Now for the hard question… is the persecution and pain and humiliation worth following Christ?
The writer of the book of Hebrews answers this hard question, after recounting all the terrible things that happened to the saints of old who stood up for their faith, even giving their lives for the Lord:
“… the world was not worthy of them.” (Hebrews 11:38a NIV)
What kind of story did you think you were in?
– a permanent vacation, with everything focused on your comfort and convenience?
– or the greatest love story, set in the fiercest battle?