Are the Persecuted"
are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake:
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye,
when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall
say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward
in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which
were before you" (Matthew 5:10- 12).
blessing of the Lord, like the ones before it, falls on
our natural ears like discord. Blessed? When people talk
insultingly of us? When they do unkind, spiteful, even
harmful deeds to us?
is an important point of clarification in this beatitude. "For
righteousness' sake ... for my sake." Jesus
is not putting a blanket blessing on all those who are
reviled or harmed, but on those who are maligned and mistreated
for His sake.
we consider this beatitude, our thoughts may first go to
countries that have been intolerant of Christianity, countries
where Christians have been put in prison, tortured, and
killed for their faith. And the Lord's blessing certainly
falls on such. Of such is the kingdom of heaven! The Apostle
Paul, however, after describing such hardships in his own
life, wrote, "Yea, and ALL
that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2
has always been a deep antagonism from Satan toward God,
from the world toward the Church, and thus from the ungodly
toward the godly. This is not to say that every believer
hates every unbeliever. But it is to say that there is
an essential conflict between evil and good, and that this
conflict will spill out of unbelieving, sinful, carnal
people against believing, righteous, Spirit-filled people.
It will spill out in derogatory remarks, in cutting accusations,
in spiteful attitudes, in unfair dealings, and sometimes
in physical harm.
more subtle persecution and sometimes the most malicious
comes from those who hide their carnality and sinfulness
behind religious cloaks. Jesus found it so. The Gentile
rulers, Pilate and Herod, would have set Jesus free, but
the Scripture-thumping religious leaders were hostile beyond
reason. Hypocrisy--form without life--is still with us,
and therefore, those who live like Jesus will be despised
and persecuted. Following are some examples:
- Those who live by principles,
not simply by Church standards, may make applications
that threaten the comfortable boundaries of legalistic
Church members. First they will draw raised eyebrows,
then confrontation, and then they will become the object
of gossip, evil assumptions, snide remarks, and worse.
- Those who live heart and
soul for Jesus and His eternal kingdom will not have
the material values of Western culture, and thus they
will not enter into the normal round of buying, working,
laying up, or living for pride or pleasure. Where the
Church has become worldly in these things, people who
live like Jesus will become a source of irritation. They
will be accused of being financially incompetent.
- Those who have eternal
vision for their children, and who take definite steps
in training them in God's ways, steps that set them apart
from the norm, will likewise be reviled. They don't fit
in. Their children are not permitted to participate even
in some Church-sponsored activities. They don't buy into
the latest recreational activities.
Let's balance these examples
with recognizing that there is no virtue in being different.
There is a blessing only in living righteously, like Jesus.
Jesus said, "Rejoice!"
when our actions have been righteous, we find that our
natural reactions to unkind, cutting, sarcastic, demeaning,
words and actions are carnal. We don't naturally rejoice
when mistreated. It is far easier to be discouraged, to
find sympathizers, to lash back, to mentally review the
hurt and grow bitter.
said, "Blessed are they
which are persecuted for righteousness' sake."
should we rejoice?
- Because persecution identifies
us with Jesus.
- Because persecution for
righteousness' sake identifies us with the most noble,
godly, shining characters in history.
- Because Jesus counts
us as part of His heavenly kingdom.
- Because our reward in
heaven is measured at least to some extent by what
we sacrifice on earth for the name of Jesus.
- Because persecution provides
an opportunity to reflect the character and mission
- Because the Lord's special
care for His people is revealed in times of rejection
- Because rejoicing in
the Lord delivers us from those carnal responses that
mar our testimony for Jesus.
When you have done right and
were criticized, insulted, ignored, laughed at, and held
at arm's length for it, how have you responded?
says, "Rejoice!" And
He knows what He is talking about.
Life Ministries Newsletter, February 1996