BEATITUDES SERIES: Persecuted

BEATITUDES SERIES: Persecuted

I have a particular agenda today as we take a look at the last of the beatitudes from Matthew 5.  Matthew 5:10-12 is about persecution because that word occurs in verse 10, verse 11, and verse 12.

What is my agenda?

My agenda is that at the end of this blog you (who are in the USA) are able to state three phrases and mean them with all of your heart:

#1 I honestly have no idea what this passage really means.

#2 I am so blessed.

#3 May I do the same as them.

Matthew 5:10-12 (ESV): Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The word persecute means to pursue and press and choke.

The word persecute means to follow and cause distress.

Jesus begins this particular set of verses in verse 10 by saying that a person is blessed if they are persecuted.  That seems odd on the surface because persecution is not a nice word.  We would put that word in the not-nice word category.  And yet, Jesus Christ states clearly that when persecution comes, blessings happen.  A state of blessedness occurs.

Persecution is mistreatment. 

Persecution is not someone calling you a “Bible thumper” and giving you a dirty look.

Persecution is bending laws or ignoring laws in order to oppress someone. 

Persecution is not a restaurant automatically charging your large church group tip Sundays after church at lunch.

Persecution usually involves pain or death.

Persecution is not a community refusing to rezone a quiet neighborhood area so a church can move in and put in a busy school.

Persecution often involves fines or prison time. 

Persecution is not no one sharing your “You will be blessed if you repost this” posts on Facebook.

Persecution is painful and suffering.

In my opinion, the term persecution should be reserved for our brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world whose lives and families and well-being are constantly placed on the line for the sake of their allegiance to Christ.

Verse 11 highlights something very important that also happens to be mentioned in verse 10.  Verse 10 says “persecuted for righeousness’ sake.”  Verse 11 says persecution comes on “My account” and it is Jesus who is speaking.  Jesus is talking about being hated and mistreated solely because you are filled with His righteousness and pursue His teachings.  Jesus is talking about being pressed down or oppressed because you identify with Jesus.  Jesus knows that being a believer can rub people the wrong way or be against the law… not because of anything we have done, but because as John 1:10 (ESV) says, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him.” 

Persecution that Jesus is talking about means that active hate comes your way, evil actions are allowed to happen to you, laws are passed against you, and people lie about you in court all because you are a believer in Jesus Christ. 

The reason is because you are a righteous person in an unrighteous world.

The reason is you have self-identified as a believer in Jesus Christ.

The reason is that Christ is often rejected as are His followers.

I actually think that Christians can be persecuted for other reasons… other than what Jesus states here.  I don’t know if you agree with that or not.  We Christians can be persecuted because we become more known for what we oppose and dislike rather than what we support or love.  We Christians can be persecuted because we are obnoxious and unnecessarily offensive and people don’t want to be around us.  We Christians can be persecuted if we get away from keeping Jesus Christ at the center of our lives and live in a different way… hypocrisy can bring mistreatment.

1 Peter 4:14-16 (ESV)

If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that Name.

Verse 12 caps off these thoughts on persecution by describing that there is a reward for being persecuted.  I would assume the reward is not our motivation for being persecuted because persecution in Jesus’ eyes is for righteousness and His sake… not for some kind of reward.  Nevertheless, Jesus says there is a reward.

Jesus says in verse 10 that “theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” which means in context that someone who is persecuted for their faith already has the benefits of the Kingdom in this life.  Believers who are persecuted have firm identity in Christ, joy, sanctified purpose, a kinship with prophets who were persecuted, and I would say a closeness with our Savior.  Those are benefits now (in this life) in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus says in verse 12 that “your reward is great in Heaven.”  Heaven comes later.  Heaven is eternity.  Heaven is the Age to Come.  It is a wonderful God-given Jesus-assured promise that there is a future reward for suffering for the Name of Christ.  Jesus says that if mistreatment comes, laws are passed against you, pain, death, fines, prison time, pain, suffering, active hate, evil actions, and people lie about you in court all because you are a believer in Jesus Christ… there is an eternal reward for eternity for you. 

My agenda is that we are able to honestly and personally state three phrases.  I believe these phrases and they were my thoughts as I reflected on Jesus words at the end of the beatitudes. 

#1 I honestly have no idea what this passage really means.

I have been a Christian since I was 10 years old and I have not been in prison for my beliefs.  There are no laws preventing me from freely worshipping my God.  I can give a Bible to whomever I want.  I do not know what dear brothers and sisters go through in others places in the world. 

Heavenly Father may I be willing!

#2 I am so blessed.

I have not been pursued and pressed and choked for my faith or followed and made to feel distress because Jesus is my Lord and Savior.  I am so blessed to have had Christian parents.  I am so blessed to have education to be a minister.  I am blessed to worship freely in this country.  I blessed not to worry for my family because they are also believers.

Heavenly Father may I not take Your blessing for granted!

#3 May I do the same as them.

I wonder what I would do if soldiers arrived at my home and wanted to confiscate my Bible… correction… my Bible-s… because I own a shameful number of Bibles.  I wonder what would happen if laws were passed against worshipping God and police blocked off the church.  I have actually wondered what I would do if an elected politician in office required my sermons before I preached them and would edit out the parts they didn’t like.

Heavenly Father may I do the same as them!

TMB

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