Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:10 NIV).
In the eighth and final Beatitude Jesus tells those who are truly poor in spirit, mourning over their sin, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart and peacemaking they can expect persecution. The more a person is transformed into Christ’s image, walking in His Ways, whose allegiance is to Him and His Kingdom, the more one will face hostility and persecution from the world.
The Beatitudes end with the same reward as the first “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” All of these Beatitudes go together. We cannot pick and choose which of the Beatitudes we are going to follow. While some may be easier than others, we are called to live in righteousness, imitating Jesus.
Matthew continues saying, “‘Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you'” (vv 11-12).
In these verses Jesus moves from the third person plural to the second person plural. While Jesus was speaking to His disciples/followers at that time, the same is true for us today: “Blessed are y’all when people insult y’all, persecute y’all and falsely say all kinds of evil against y’all because of me…great is you all’s reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before y’all.
One of the things I love the most about Christianity is that it is NOT cookie-cutter. Each believer is unique, individually made with gifts and personal convictions tailored made for them. While the Body of Christ as a whole suffers persecution, so does each individual Christian. It is important to remember that not all Christians are “persecuted because of righteousness” in the same way.
Worldwide it is becoming ever more difficult to follow Christ. There is a price to pay. It is wise for all of us everywhere to ask God to prepare us and to help us endure the persecution that we will face. We need to ask Jesus to prepare us to endure because we are commanded to rejoice and be glad. Jesus has told us what to expect and He has also told us how to respond, rejoicing and being glad.
In Acts 5:41, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for [Jesus].” Jesus has left us no room to sulk, feel sorry for ourselves or be dismayed by persecution. Because Jesus commands us to rejoice and be glad in our persecution we are not to seek revenge nor retaliation.
Because Christ was persecuted, believers will be persecuted as well. Jesus reminds us that the prophets who went before us suffered persecution. Hebrews 11 recounts the great heroes of the faith and how all of them suffered in some way, never seeing the Promised Messiah. The writer of Hebrews then says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (12:1-3).
We do not need to seek out persecution, if we are living for Christ, being transformed more and more into His image, insults and hardships will come. As the world persecuted Christ, so too will the world persecute His people. I do not claim to know what persecution, trials and hardships look like in your life, but I pray that you will be able to endure knowing that the Holy Spirit empowers and the Son intercedes on your behalf to the glory of God the Father.
Dear reader, as we conclude our time in the Beatitudes together, I want to thank you for walking through each of these with me. I am thankful that in the Christian life we never walk alone! The Beatitudes are just the beginning of the “Sermon on the Mount” and I am excited to see where the Lord takes us in the posts ahead. If there is ever any way that I can pray for you or come beside you and encourage you, NEVER hesitate to email me through my contact page.
Father God, may we never stop living the Beatitudes. May we never stop growing in our character and conduct. Lord God, prepare us to be persecuted because of righteousness. Help us to be poor in spirit because in both of these Beatitudes the reward is the kingdom of heaven. Lord God, remind us that we are Kingdom citizens who are to do Your will and way on this earth. Lord God, regardless of where we live may we be reminded that our allegiance is to you first and foremost. Lord God, as this world grows ever more hostile to You, may we seek refuge in Your Kingdom and not in the things of this world. Lord God, I ask that You continue to reveal and expose false prophets, teachers and ministries. Lord God, the world is watching and when they are not seeking to persecute Your people they are laughing. Lord God, in many ways the Gospel that is being promoted today is counter to what You teach in Your Word, especially in the Beatitudes. Lord God, imprint these Beatitudes in our minds, write them on our hearts so when we are in difficult situations we will know who You are and what we are to do. Thank You Lord for this reader. May they continue living in the ways that You have set before them. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.