Beatitudes - Persecuted

"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.” (Matt. 5:10-12)

In the previous beatitudes, we have noticed how the Lord's teachings often contradict the wisdom of the world. Jesus spoke of the blessedness of being poor in spirit, mournful, meek, hungry and thirsty for righteousness, merciful, and pure in heart. These are not traits that are highly valued by worldly standards, but they are of great value in the sight of God. Peacemakers are also blessed according to the Lord, "for they shall be called sons of God,” which means that they are like God Himself. However, peacemakers often incur persecution from men, so the Lord addressed this situation in the eighth beatitude.

No worldly minded person would ever perceive that any good could come from being persecuted, but the Lord declared that suffering for Him leads to great blessings. Like the other beatitudes, this teaching requires great faith to accept and practice. In a world that constantly seeks immediate gratification, suffering persecution in the present in hope of receiving an unseen reward in the future has no appeal. Yet Christians recognize the spiritual value of sacrifice, and they believe that the reward they will receive in heaven will far exceed anything they may lose here on earth.

For early Christians, the Lord's message about persecution had a real and present application. Many of them suffered tremendously for the Lord's sake. We should imitate the examples of the apostles (Acts 4:1-31; 5:17-42; 12:2-5; 13:50; 14:5-6; 19-20; 16:16-24; 17:13; 18:12-17; 22:17-28:31), Stephen (Acts 7), and other faithful Christians who were willing to endure persecution for the Lord (Acts 8:1-4; 12:1; 17:6-9; 18:17). Especially, we should imitate their attitudes. Notice the apostles' reaction to persecution in Acts 5:41 – "So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.” Also, notice Paul's attitude regarding his suffering in 2Corinthians 4:16-18:

"Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

For those of us Christians today who live in the United States, persecution is not a major concern. From time to time, we do suffer insults, rejection, bias, and discrimination, but our lives and property are not often in danger due to our beliefs in God. However, circumstances may change rapidly, and we need to be prepared to cling to our faith even if persecution comes. Of course, we should not seek persecution (in fact Christ told His disciples to flee from it – Matt. 10:23), but if we should have to choose between obeying our Lord and suffering persecution, then we must be willing to suffer. Notice the directions given in 1Peter 3:13-17:

"Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. and do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.”

When we do suffer for the sake of Christ (and we will – 1Tim. 3:12), we have many good reasons to rejoice. Of course, we do not enjoy the persecution itself, but by faith we look forward to its results. We have a secure promise of a great reward in heaven, and that makes us happy. We share the great heritage of the prophets who came before us and likewise suffered, and they are great company. We embrace the opportunity to unashamedly (Rom. 1:16) suffer "shame” for Christ's name. Indeed, we can say with Paul, "For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2Tim. 1:12).

As we close this series on the beatitudes, consider the Lord's description of a blessed person. According to Christ, the blessed person is a spiritually poor, hungry, thirsty, mournful, meek, merciful, pure-hearted, persecuted peacemaker. Does the Lord's description fit you?

Stacey E. Durham


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